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Holger Weiss 


Indexing terms 



Islamic countries 


Social welfare 








Cover photo: Holger Weiss 
Language checking: Elaine Almen 
© The authors and Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 2002 
ISBN 91-7106-481-8 

Printed in Sweden by Elanders Gotab, Stockholm 2002 



Holger Weiss 

Zakat and the Question of Social Welfare: An Introductory Essay 
on Islamic Economics and Its Implications for Social Welfare .7 

Endre Stiansen 

Is there Room for Non-Muslims in the Sudan's Islamic Economy? . 39 

Franz Kogelmann 

Sidi Fredj: A Case Study of a Religious Endowment 

in Morocco under the French Protectorate. 66 

Knut S. Vik 0 r 

Sufism and Social Welfare in the Sahara . 79 


Riidiger Seesemann 

Sufi Leaders and Social Welfare: 

Two Examples from Contemporary Sudan . 97 


Roman Loimeier 

Je veux etudier sans mendier: 

The Campaign Against the Qur 3 anic Schools in Senegal . 116 

Sulemana Mumuni 

A Survey of Islamic Non-Governmental Organisations in Accra . 136 

Holger Weiss 

The Concept of Islamic Economy as Articulated in Sokoto: 

Social Justice and State Responsibility . 160 




In recent decades there has been an increasing attempt by Muslim intellectu¬ 
als to reflect about the provision of social welfare in Muslim societies in Africa. 
One reason of this are the few, if not non-existent possibilities of the states to 
provide for basic needs for their subjects, a situation that has become painfully 
evident in most African states. Another reason for the upsurge of Muslim 
activities is due to the rise of Islamism and the critique of the secular state, not 
only in Africa but throughout the Muslim world. One of the key elements in 
this debate has been the development of Islamic economics. 

However, public as well as private provision of social welfare is not a new 
phenomenon in the Muslim world. Whereas government and public 
involvement in the provision of social welfare has been haphazard, despite 
various attempts at direct state involvement especially in the post-colonial 
world, private and what might be labelled as semi-official activities, such as 
the establishment of pious foundations and the activities of the Sufi orders, 
have a solid foundation in local Muslim societies. 

This collection attempts to emphasise the variety of both agents and ways 
to provide social welfare in Muslim societies in Africa. In addition, social 
welfare, as such, is both being reflected upon and debated by Muslim 
intellectuals. Our attempt has therefore been to capture both the theoretical as 
well as the actual dimension of social welfare. 

Most of the papers in this collection were first presented at a workshop on 
"Social Justice, Social Welfare and Praxis in Islamic Societies in Africa", 
organised in Helsinki during April 1999. 1 Weiss's introductory essay in 
Chapter I and Mumuni's overview in Chapter VII are not from the workshop. 
In his introductory essay, Weiss presents a general introduction to zakat as 
being one of the projected cornerstones of an Islamic social welfare system. 
Islamic economics is further discussed by Stiansen in Chapter II. Stiansen's 
focus is on the situation in Sudan, especially focussing on the question of 
Islamic banking. Another aspect of Islamic social welfare is taken up by 
Kogelmann in Chapter III, namely that of religious endowments. 
Kogelmann's case-study deals with colonial Morocco and provides a discus¬ 
sion of an institutionalised form of social welfare. The role of Sufi orders is 
discussed by Vikor (Chapter IV), Seesemann (Chapter V) and Loimeier 
(Chapter VI). Vikor's focus is on the Sanusiya and their activities in the Sahara 
during the nineteenth century, whereas Seesemann presents the activities of 
two Tijani Sufi shaikhs in contemporary Sudan. Loimeier's presentation, on 

1 The workshop was orgnised by the Department of Asian and African Studies, University of 
Helsinki and the University of Helsinki research project "Zakat: Poverty, social welfare and 
Islamic taxation". Additional funding for the workshop was received from the Academy of Fin¬ 



the other hand, concerns the 1992 campaign by the Senegalese government, 
UNICEF and a number of Islamic reform movements against Qur 'anic schools 
operated by Sufi shaikhs in Senegal. In Chapter VII, Mumuni provides an 
overview of Muslim NGOs in Ghana, especially those active in Accra. In the 
last chapter, Weiss gives a presentation of some Nigerian contributions in 
Islamic economics and discusses their possible implications. 


Zakat and the Question of Social Welfare 

An Introductory Essay on Islamic Economics 
and Its Implications for Social Welfare 

Holger Weiss 

This introductory essay presents a discussion about a particular discourse 
within Islamic studies, namely the attempt to create a social welfare system 
through the establishment of an Islamic economy. However, instead of fo¬ 
cussing on the subject of Islamic economics merely from within, there will be 
an attempt to locate the discussion within the framework of a larger devel¬ 
opmental discourse. Therefore, while the first part of the essay will concentrate 
on Islamic economics and the creation of a social welfare system, the second 
part of the essay will focus on the recent establishment of various zakat 
organisations and put the discussion within an African context. 1 

Twentieth century Muslim social scientists and economists have under¬ 
lined that there is a possibility of an Islamic welfare concept based upon zakat. 2 
Critical Muslim economists have claimed that the only way forward for 
today's Muslim societies is a return to the Islamic values and bases of the legal, 
social and political system. 3 Such an approach has been criticised by Western 
scholars as overlooking the built-in discrepancy between ideals and reality in 
Islamic social theory. Therefore, Western research has regarded such studies 
as apologetic. 4 

A key problem with zakat as providing the basis of an Islamic welfare 
system is the role of the state. According to the advocates of Islamic economics, 
an Islamic state would and should introduce an Islamic social welfare system. 
However, at the moment, there exists no Islamic state—at least not in the sense 
of the apologetics of Islamic economics. There are several regimes and 
governments in the present Muslim world, such as Iran, Libya, Pakistan, 
Malaysia or Sudan, that claim to have established or are about to introduce an 
Islamic order, but none of these states would fulfil the requirements of having 
established an Islamic economy—not to speak of an Islamic social welfare 
system. In some Muslim states, Islamic banking has been introduced and 

1 The latter part of the essay is to some extent a follow up of my discussion on the emergence of 
Islamic economics in Northern Nigeria in Chapter VIII. 

2 See Ahmad 1991. 

3 Siddiqi 1948; Qutb 1953. See also Wilson 1998. 

4 Ule 1971; Reissner 1991. 


Holger Weiss 

Islamic banks have been established, 5 whereas other sectors of Islamic 
economics remain undeveloped or have not been implemented at all, such as 
state or public supervision of the collection and distribution of zakat. 

In this study, the question of zakat will be discussed from a theoretical 
perspective. What is the role of the state in respect to zakat ? Whereas it can be 
argued that zakat belonged to the public sphere during the early days of Islam, 
this has become a confusing situation during later periods. As long as the 
community was of a limited size, the Prophet was able to control the collection 
and distribution of the alms. Under the first caliph, Abu Bakr, the role of the 
state was further strengthened: refusal to pay zakat led to the ridda wars. 
However, after the expansion outside of the Arabian peninsula, the role of the 
state seems to have been changed: zakat was certainly still collected, but it was 
organised on a local level by the local imam. With the breakdown of caliphate 
rule and the division of the community into several regional political entities, 
it seems as if the role of the state as the supervisor of the collection and 
distribution was lost. What remained was the ideal setting: the Islamic state 
enforcing Islamic law and, as a consequence, the collection and distribution of 
the Qur'anic taxes. 

Reality, however, proved to be different from the ideal. To meet the ex¬ 
penditures, most Muslim states started to collect extra-Qur’anic taxes. This rift 
between the ideal and the reality was to be articulated by the critics of the 
rulers and their regimes; the key argument being that the rulers were not 
ruling according to Islamic law and had neglected their duties towards the 
community of believers. Critics usually pointed at the heavy taxation imposed 
upon the commoners, arguing that within the "Islamic state" Muslims only 
had to pay the Qur'anic taxes. The similarity of the development from a 
scholarly critique of the state of affairs to an open rebellion against the ruler in 
many Muslim regions is striking. One common argument has usually been 
the denouncement of the rulers and the state as being non-Muslim and the 
attempts to establish conditions resembling those of the community of the 
Prophet in Medina: the ideal state realised on earth. 6 

However, as will be discussed in the second part of the study, is the state 
the most feasible unit for the establishment of an Islamic social welfare system 
that would be based on the collection and distribution of zakat ? Starting from a 
questionnaire on zakat that was sent to a hundred c ulama J in Pakistan by 
Shaikh Mahmud Ahamd in the late 1970s, the question of zakat will be put into 
a discussion of the establishment of an Islamic order, not an Islamic state. A 
tentative hypothesis will be brought forward about the possibility of an 
Islamic social welfare system within a modern, post-colonial and usually 
secular state without the need for the establishment of an Islamic state. 

5 This subject is discussed in Endre Stiansen's article on the Sudan's Islamic Economy, see 
Chapter II. 

6 For a modern discussion and synthesis of the ideals and rules of zakat, see al-Qardawi 1999. 


Zakat and the Question of Social Welfare 


The Ideal of the Islamic State 

A general trend within the political writing of Muslim scholars has been the 
argument of the corruptness of the time they were living in. Muslim regimes 
and rulers past and present are usually depicted as morally corrupt, the state 
being corrupt and the political arena having become a playing field for indi¬ 
vidualists who only care about their own interests. 7 The poor economic and 
political performance of the post-colonial Muslim states has led to a rising 
critique by Muslim scholars among whom the concepts of the Islamic state, 
Islamic economics and zakat take a central position in their argumentation. The 
general logic of the scholars is that the present secular economic system in the 
Islamic world should be replaced by an Islamic economic system. The central 
feature of the proposed system is that individuals are guided in their 
economic decisions by a set of behavioural norms, which are derived from the 
Qur'an and the Sunna. In addition to the Islamic norms the Islamic system is to 
include zakat, which is to be the basis of an Islamic fiscal policy, and the 
prohibition of interest, which is to be the basis of an Islamic monetary policy. 

As such, the modern concept of the Islamic state is a new one, being the 
outcome of scholarly debate during the twentieth century. The concept of an 
Islamic state was constructed as an alternative to the failure of the various 
secular nation-states in the Middle East during the twentieth century. 8 It be¬ 
came the cornerstone of the argumentation of the various Islamist and other 
critical scholars, who rejected both the Western Capitalist and the Socialist 
models. For example, Asad pointed out that: 

... a state inhabited predominantly or even entirely by Muslims is not necessarily syn¬ 
onymous with an 'Islamic state': it can become truly Islamic only by virtue of a con¬ 
scious application of the sociopolitical tenets of Islam to the life of the nation, and by an 
incorporation of those tenets of Islam to the life of the nation, and by an incorporation 
of those tenets in the basic constitution of the country. 9 

Thus, Asad and others have been able to label both the existing Muslim (na¬ 
tion) states as well as all the previous states within the Islamic world as not 
being true 'Islamic states': 

There has never existed a truly Islamic state after the time of the Prophet and the 
Medina Caliphate ... (because) they fully reflected the pristine teachings of both the 

7 Such arguments can be found in works by, among others, past scholars such as al-Mawardl, 
Ibn Taimrya and Ibn Khaldun, but also among Muslim scholars and academics of the twentieth 
century, such as Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, Sayyid Qutb, M.A. Mannan or S.A. Siddiqi, to 
mention a few. 

8 See also my discussion in Chapter VIII. 

9 Asad 1985,1. 


Holger Weiss 

Qur'an and the Prophet's Sunnah, and were yet unburdened by latter-day theological 
accretions and speculations. 1 ** 

One key argument among the 'Islamic-system school' is that the precondition 
for the implementation of an Islamic system is the creation of an Islamic state. 
Within the Islamic state, an Islamic economic system is to be created. It would 
be the responsibility of the Islamic state to care for the social welfare of all 
people, 11 whereas the primary role of the Islamic norms is to make the 
individual member of Islamic society, homo islamicus, socially responsible and 
altruistic. Furthermore, the 'Islamic-system school' claims as a proof of the 
validity of an Islamic system that the historical record of Islam amply 
demonstrates that it is possible to create a society whose members adhere to 
the Islamic norms and which embodies a benevolent state. According to M.A. 

It is a verdict of history that the Abbasid period saw the culmination of several taxes 
introduced during the time of the prophet. The peace and economic prosperity that 
prevailed during the period of Islamic history is indicative of the fact that the financial 
system was quite sound and practical. The very fact that the tax structure of early 
Islam was elastic and dynamic is a great lesson for the modern economic experts and 
financial wizards. 12 

The prototype of the Islamic state was the "Islamic system during the classical 
period", according to S.A. Siddiqi, one of the founding fathers of the discipline 
of Islamic economics and a key figure in the Islamic system school. The 
classical era, namely the period of the Prophet and the rule of the four 'rightly- 
guided' caliphs, i.e., a period much shorter than the one proposed by Mannan 
above, is said to have been a society in which there was no accumulation of 
wealth in a few hands, no hoarding and no profiteering—in other words the 
perfect Islamic system. The state was said to have been responsible for the 
social welfare of each member of the society, i.e., the just Islamic state 
materialised on earth: "We are not talking of an Utopia or of an ideal state. It 
was a real society which blossomed and died out and has gone into the limbo 
of the Past." 13 

According to Siddiqi, zakat would be the cornerstone of the financial 
structure in an Islamic state: 

... zakat is a compulsory tax levied by an Islamic state or the members of the Muslim 
community, so as to take the surplus money from the comparatively well-to-do mem¬ 
bers of the society and to give it to the destitute and needy. 14 

Thus, it is the objective of the Islamic state to care for the welfare of its weaker 
members—a point usually emphasised by the Islamic economists. However, 

10 Asad 1985, V-VI. 

11 c AzIz 1992,140,151. 

12 Mannan 1970, 283. 

13 Siddiqi 1948, vi. 

14 Siddiqi 1948, 9. 


Zakat and the Question of Social Welfare 

this argument must be understood as being both a political statement as well 
as an outline of an ideological charter. The critique is directed against the 
contemporary state of affairs; the charter is rather wishful thinking based on 
an uncritical reading of the early period of Islam. I therefore agree with 
Kuran's (1986) critical remarks about the idealistic picture that the modern 
adherents of Islamic economics present about the existence of a harmonious 
and perfectly just society during the times of the Prophet and his four 
successors. However, as an ideal, the concept of the Islamic state and the 
example of the Prophet and his companions have been and will be used by 
both propagandists and reformers to legitimise their critique of the state of 

The Ideal State and the Reality 

The question of how to rule the community of the believers, the umma, and 
who should and could have the authority to rule, has been the main cause for 
dissent and friction since the murder of the third caliph, Uthman, and has 
overshadowed the history of Islam since then. 15 There are also strong simi¬ 
larities between the doctrines of the orthodox fuqahtP, scholars of religious law 
or Muslim literati, of the classical era up to the thirteenth and fourteenth 
centuries AD and twentieth century writers. 16 Both use a dichotomy of the 
present as a period of decadence and the past as a golden age. For both, the 
ideal was the constitution of Medina and the rule of the Prophet Muhammad. 
Thus, the articulation of present-day Islamist writers of the ideal of an Islamic 
state is used as an analytical tool to study past events as well as providing the 
means to interpret the present. 17 

The rift between the ideals of the Muslim scholars and the political reality 
had become quite obvious by the fourteenth century, when Ibn Khaldun 
wrote his Muqqadima. Compared to the earlier jurists, who tried to place the 

15 Zubaida, for example, notes that demands for the institution of a legitimate state as against 
an allegedly ungodly one have always been made historically in the name of an alternative 
prince, usually designated in terms of lineage, notably the Alid, or of a messianic Mahdi 
(Zubaida 1993,155). However, for West Africa as well as other peripheral regions of the Islamic 
world, one would also have to include the key role of the Muslim literati and Sufi shaikhs. 

16 For example, Ibn Taimrya has perceived a kind of renaissance among some critical Muslim 
scholars during the twentieth century. According to Islahi (1988, 253), "Ibn Taimryah's 
thoughts on the role of the state are highly relevant and valuable. He discusses the need for a 
state and its duties towards the economic well-being of the people". 

17 The ideal Islamic state was the Islamic community founded by Muhammad in Medina. 
Within that community, the state was but the plurality of its citizens unified by faith and 
obedience to the commands of God. The army was but the citizenry in arms, and institutions 
such as the shurd, the council, and the hay c a, the collective oath of allegiance, were meant to 
ensure representative and responsible government (Zubaida 1993, 44-45). The ideal Islamic 
state, however, is as much of a mythification as that of the ideal community, the umma. This 
period, known as the golden or true Islamic era, was one when the state and community were 
regarded as the same, when religious and political rule were unified in one person and when 
the rulers ruled according to the Qur’an and the sunna —or according to their spirit, since the 
Qur’an and the sunna had yet to be codified. 


Holger Weiss 

state within the legal-religious sphere, Ibn Khaldun clearly recognised the 
distinction between mulk, kingship or secular authority, and the caliphate. 
According to Ibn Khaldun, mulk- rule should be based upon the use of 
political-military power and coercion whereas the c ulami ? were to assume a 
subsidiary position within government. The rule of the caliphate was to be 
based upon the application of religion and shari c a. However, Ibn Khaldun's 
distinction between kingship and caliphate was more than a ex post facto 
description because it resulted in an analysis of the cyclical behaviour of the 
rise and fall of states by emphasising that the caliphate-rule had been 
replaced by mulk- rule as part of a specific political cycle. As had become 
painfully evident for the Muslims one century after the death of the Prophet, 
neither the caliphate nor the umma had remained unified or even came close 
to the religious-political intentions and revelations of the Prophet. On both 
political and religious grounds, the umma was split among different sects. The 
reality, which Ibn Khaldun had described as mulk- rule, had little in common 
with the political-religious ideals which were pointed to by the Muslim literati 
and jurists, the c ulama°, or the advocates of popular Islam, such as sufism within 
Sunni Islam. 18 

What existed, and still exists, were Muslim not Islamic states, as the 
Islamic state per definition is a state "that pertains to Islam as a religion, an 
ideology, and a system of life". 19 The problem of any Muslim state was how to 
secure enough income to cover its expenses. As long as there were enough 
subjects that paid jizya, there was enough revenue available, but when income 
from jizya declined, the state was facing a fiscal crisis. The fiscal crisis became 
aggravated if its expansion was halted and the income from khums, the fifth of 
revenues from military expeditions, disappeared. In such a situation, zakat 
became a problem because the state could not use the income from it to cover 
its expenses. Further, to broaden the fiscal basis was impossible, at least in 
theory, due to the demand that only Qur'anic taxes could be levied. However, 
the fiscal crisis usually led to a break with the Qur'anic basis of taxation and 
the introduction of extra- and non-Qur'anic levies ( mukus ). Such a policy did, 
however, as a rule lead to fierce criticism from the ulama 0 , especially from those 
scholars who opposed the acts of the rulers and who demanded the abolition of 
such levies. It was therefore problematic for the Muslim state to push for a 
reorganisation of the tax basis. As long as Qur 'anic taxes were levied, the main 
pressure was put on the rural population, but any attempt to relocate the tax 
burden and shift it towards the urban population, trade and crafts, was 
ideologically, if not politically, more or less impossible. 20 Therefore, the 
Muslim ruler was caught in a dilemma—to increase taxes and face the 
possibility of a revolt or to stick to the ideal and face a financial crisis. This 
dilemma provided Ibn Khaldun with his theory of the rise and fall of states as 

18 Ibn Khaldun 1989, 200-06. 

19 Al-Buraey 1985, 25. 

20 Feldbauer 1995, 279-81. 


Zakat and the Question of Social Welfare 

well as Ernst Gellner (following Ibn Khaldun) with his notion of the 
'permanent Islamic revolution': 

But what would happen ... if some authoritative cleric, having with some show of 
plausibility denounced the impiety and immorality of the ruler, thereby also provided a 
banner, a focus, a measure of unitary leadership for the wolves? What if he went into 
the wilderness to ponder the corruption of the time, and there encountered, not only 
God, but also some armed tribesmen, who responded to his message? This ever-latent 
possibility hangs over the political order, and is perhaps the Islamic form of permanent 

The rift between the real world and the speculations about a perfect economic 
system within an ideal politico-cum-religious environment has had a great 
variety of consequences in the Islamic world. First, the rift might be 
interpreted in a negative way: the impossibility of establishing utopia on 
earth. Such an interpretation might result in a fatalistic worldview. However, 
as has become evident in the previous outline, Muslim intellectuals cannot, as 
such, be regarded as propagators of a lost cause, doomed to the darkness of 
fatalism. Instead, one key argument has been the need for change, usually the 
call for a revival of the 'perfect community' which existed during the early 
days of Islam. Thus, the rift between the real and the ideal world demands of 
the true believers an effort "fl sabll Allah"—for the cause of Allah. It is a 
future-oriented projection—the establishment of an Islamic state—although it 
rests on the re-enactment of a 'true but lost reality'. Therefore Gellner's notion 
of a 'permanent revolution' is one of the driving forces within the Islamic 
world: people's failure to establish utopia on earth due to their imperfections is 
not the end of history but in fact the impetus of it. As, according to Islam, no 
one can be above the Law, because it is God's Law and the caliph is only His 
vice regent here on earth, himself being only a primus inter pares, God's Law 
must be the guiding line of society as a whole, be it in politics, economics, trade 
or social life. Back to utopia? Not necessarily, because the demand of the rule of 
God's Law on earth does give the custodians and interpreters of the Law a 
central position. 

One consequence of the 'permanent revolution' is that the question of 
obligatory almsgiving and, most important, the question of permitted and 
forbidden taxes is almost always raised by those Muslim scholars who are 
critical about the political regime. Any ruler who, deliberately or not, is side¬ 
stepping the Qur’anic taxes or introduces extraordinary taxes and levies is 
faced with the charge of the scholars that he is breaking with the rules of Islam. 
Some scholars might even argue that the time has come to topple the regime 
and replace it with a new one that would rule according to Islamic Law and 
ethics. If successful in their aspirations, an Islamic state might be established 
by the critical scholars. However, the problem with the scholar who becomes 
the leader of a religious-cum-political movement is that almost immediately 
as he becomes the new ruler, he is no longer the erector of a perfect society but 

21 Gellner 1981, 45. 


Holger Weiss 

the administrator of a society where people are fallible. The moment he starts 
to rule as a political authority and makes his first compromise, utopia is lost 
again and the perfect Islamic state starts to fade away. After too many changes, 
compromises and the introduction of additional taxes to meet the growing 
demands of the court and the army, the Islamic state becomes just a mere 
facade, or, following Ibn Khaldun, one is dealing again with Muslim states, 
ruled by 'secular' Muslim rulers who have no religious impact or position; 
Islamic law is enforced and might even be the guideline in society, but would 
not confine the ruler as s/he would rule with or without it. 

Islamic Economics within the Ideal State 

As mentioned above, there is a general agreement among late twentieth 
century Muslim economists that the precondition for an Islamic economy is the 
existence of the ideal Islamic state, based upon the model of the Medina 
Caliphate or the era of the combination between state and community. 
According to Karen Pfeifer: 

Islamic economics is a set of ideas evolving in the last decades of the twentieth century 
to explain and address the economic problems faced by the citizens of predominantly 
Muslim countries. ... It aims to recapture the original moral and political authority of 
the anti-colonial movements that gave rise to state capitalism, but without the latter's 
domineering centralism and bureaucratic rigidities. It aims to provide scope for indi¬ 
vidual economic initiative and markets, just as proponents of economic liberalisation 
do, but without the callous disregard for the evils of markets associated with 
unfettered capitalist systems in the West, such as extreme poverty and wealth. 22 

The upsurge of Islamic economics is reflected in the rise of Islamism 
throughout the Muslim world. According to Elizabeth Hodgkin, one must, 
however, distinguish between two different kinds of movements, one that she 
defines as Islamic resurgence and one called "Islamism". Whereas the former 
movement strives for an increase in religious observance and fervour but 
recognises different Islamic identities, the goal of the latter one is to bring 
Islam into every aspect of human life, political, social, economic and cultural. 
As such, "Islamism" is rather similar to earlier reform or revivalist 
movements in Islamic history in its demands for the purification of Islam and 
rejection of non-Islamic innovations. The key demands of today's "Islamists" 
is, however, the perception of Islam as a total religion. As a total religion, 
which does not accept any division between religious and secular life, such a 
condition can only be achieved by a purification of the state, namely by 
creating an Islamic order through the institution of Islamic Law as State Law 
and in the end by creating an Islamic state. However, as Hodgkin emphasises, 
the latter demand, namely that of the establishment of an Islamic state, does 

22 Pfeifer 1997,155. 


Zakat and the Question of Social Welfare 

not have to be a uniform demand, as many Islamic movements do not see the 
seizure of state power as among their aims. 23 

One central position of Islamism is the rejection of the 'corruption and 
secularism' of the modern world. However, this opposition is not a rejection of 
modernity as such but, as both Western academics and Islamic economists 
have argued, a movement for the 'Islamisation of capitalism': 

Where capitalism has failed it is seen as a corrupt Westernised capitalism which has 
only profited a small elite. By contrast, the organised Islamic state would bring social 
justice to all. 24 

It is the demand of 'social justice for all' which, according to the propagators of 
Islamism as well as Islamic economics, would materialise through an Islamic 
welfare system, a system, which only an Islamic state would be able to 
establish. The emphasis is on the whole of society and not on individuals: the 
collective welfare of the umma is guaranteed through social and distributive 
justice, which in turn is manifested through the collection and distribution of 
zakat. 25 

In general, according to the ideas of Islamic economics, the state is to have 
an active role in the economy. Although there is no agreement among 
present-day Muslim economists on whether state intervention in the economy 
should be limited or not, there is a fundamental understanding among all of 
the writers about the responsibility of the state for the social welfare of all 
people. The emphasis on state responsibility within the social welfare sphere 
is not surprising, and gives an opening to address pre-twentieth century 
attempts to create the ideal state as well as the Islamisation of the economy. 

Islamic economics is a rejection of both pure laissez-faire capitalism and 
socialism. According to Naqvi, the modern western welfare state doctrine 
would be, if it were based on Islamic principles, the equivalent of an Islamic 
economy. 26 Pfeifer identifies three main principles of Islamic economics. First, 
Islamic economics locates the individual in an Islamic context. However, this 
homo islamicus is, in contrast to the Western homo economicus, under the moral 
supervision of the umma. The aims of this 'individual' are both directed 
towards the maximisation of individual material utility as well as serving the 
others and the Muslim community. The second principle concerns the 
prohibition on the payment or taking of interest on money loaned together 
with the prohibitions against speculation and wasteful consumption. The third 
principle concerns the question of zakat and that of Islamic inheritance laws. 27 

23 Hodgkin 1998,198-99. See also al-Buraey 1985, 202-03. 

24 Hodgkin 1998, 200. 

25 Al-Buraey 1985,154. 

26 Naqvi 1994, 79-80. 

27 Pfeifer 1997,157-59. 


Holger Weiss 

The aim here is not to present a thorough definition and overview of the 
twentieth century debate about what zakat should and must be. 28 However, it 
should be emphasised that my understanding of the idea of zakat and the 
twentieth century debate differs from that of Karen Pfeifer. Whereas she 
stresses the fact that zakat is interpreted by contemporary Islamic economists as 
a voluntary tax on wealth administered through the mosques, and only critical 
Islamic economists would substitute the mosque-controlled network for the 
ineffective government welfare institutions, 29 my reading of the literature 
would suggest that a much stronger emphasis should be placed upon the 
compulsory state tax or public responsibility to pay it. The question of the role 
of state intervention in the economy is much debated among contemporary 
Islamic economists. 30 Thus, Sadr defines zakat as a voluntary wealth tax which 
Muslims pay in recognition of their social responsibilities and opts for a 
limited role of state intervention. 31 Siddiqi, again, emphasises the primary 
role of state-administrated social justice where zakat would be compulsory, 
collected by the state, and the state would also take over its redistribution, 32 
whereas Chapra underlines that zakat can only be of temporary assistance and 
cannot be a substitute for a modern welfare system. Chapra also rejects the 
idea of strong and active state intervention. 33 Mannan argues that "the 
purpose behind all taxes in an Islamic state is one and the same, that is, 
motivated by the welfare of the people, no matter whether they are Muslims 
or non-Muslims" and that "zakat is the pivot and hub of the Islamic public 
finance. It covers moral, social and economic spheres." 34 

Naqvi, on the other hand, states that an Islamic economic system would 
insist, at a given point in time, on maximising 'total' welfare, and not just 
'marginal' welfare. 35 Thus, following Naqvi's argument of the bias of Islamic 
economics towards social justice, an elaborate social security system based 
upon zakat must form an integral part of the policy package in an Islamic 
economy. 36 However, a different standpoint is taken by Muhammad A. al- 
Buraey, who claims that minimisation of the distributive gap is to be the major 
social goal of an Islamic state. According to al-Buraey, social justice is 

28 See further my discussion in Chapter VIII. 

29 Pfeifer 1997,158. 

30 Wilson 1998, 49-53. 

31 Al-Sadr 1982; c AzIz 1992,151. 

32 Siddiqi 1948, 8-9. 

33 Chapra 1992, 223-24, 270-75. 

34 Mannan 1970, 273, 284. According to Mannan, zakat is the community's share in produced 

35 Naqvi 1981, 65. See also Naqvi 1994, 104-07. Naqvi's distinction between 'total' and 'mar¬ 
ginal' welfare is based on his argument that an Islamic welfare system should give assistance to 
all members of the community, not only the needy. In fact, what he is describing is the distinc¬ 
tion between a 'minimal' and 'maximal' welfare system. According to the 'minimal' welfare 
system, only basic needs would be covered, whereas a 'maximal' or 'total' welfare system should 
aim at changing socio-economic as well as socio-political structures. 

36 Naqvi 1981,103-04. 


Zakat and the Question of Social Welfare 

demanded through the Islamic principle of equal human dignity and broth¬ 
erhood as well as the Islamic principle of the undesirability of the concentra¬ 
tion of wealth and income in the hands of a few, yet, on the other hand, indi¬ 
vidual and private ownership and possession are to be guaranteed, not con¬ 
demned. Similarly to Naqvi, however, al-Buraey grants to the state the re¬ 
sponsibility of protecting and implementing such an economic system. 37 Since 
any establishment of social justice by the use of force or by hindering private 
enterprise is considered unlawful, one could argue that an Islamic economic 
system does not seem to strive for a total eradication of poverty—poverty as 
such is as much the target as it is in fact a crucial and much needed component 
of the whole system. 

The twentieth century debate among Islamic economists about the basis 
of an Islamic welfare policy and the question of zakat has its pre-twentieth 
century counterparts. Contemporary Islamic economists usually emphasise 
their 'new' interpretation of Islamic law when they underline that a strict 
revival of the Medina Caliphate is not possible but has to be implemented 
with the tools and understanding of modern society. However, the debate of 
the Islamic economists is not new. Before the debate on the possibilities of an 
Islamic economy by the economists, the ideal Islamic state with its social- 
welfare-for-the-umma-principle had been debated and proposed by various 
Muslim literati. Whereas today's approach towards Islamic economics confines 
itself within the margins of economics, the traditional debate was developed 
within Islamic jurisprudence. With its strong emphasis on social justice and 
public responsibility for social welfare, Islamic jurisprudence does present a 
model of a pre-modern Islamic social welfare policy. This policy was to be 
centred upon the collection and distribution of zakat as legal alms as well as the 
establishment of a bayt al-mal or Public Treasury. Revenue collected by the 
bayt al-mal was regarded as wealth to be treated as Allah's wealth or the 
Muslims' wealth, and it implied that the revenue collected into the bayt al-mal 
was Allah's trust and the common property of all Muslims, the ruler being 
merely in the position of a trustee. 38 

According to the financial doctrines of the Muslim scholars, the revenue 
of an Islamic state was divided between religious and secular revenue. Re¬ 
ligious revenue consisted of zakat and the tithe (ushr), whereas secular revenue 
consisted of the land tax ( kharaj ), the poll-tax on non-Muslim subjects ( jizya ), 
'the fifth' of the spoils of war ( khums ), as well as the tax on non-Muslim traders 
and the estates of deceased persons. 39 The distinction between religious and 

37 Al-Buraey 1985, 185-86, 188. According to him as well as other Islamic economists, an Islamic 
economic system would recognise the sanctity of wealth and respect private ownership as long 
as it does not conflict with the public interest. 

38 Doi 1984, 387-88. See further the sections on zakat in Ruxton 1916 and the thesis of Aghnides 
1916. For a modern synthesis, see al-Qardawi 1999. 

39 An outline is presented in Doi 1984, 388-91. Doi, however, makes a distinction between ushr 
and ushur, the former being zakat on agricultural produce and paid by Muslims, the latter being 
revenue collected from the proceeds of trade and business carried out by all citizens of the 
Islamic state irrespective of their belief. Other jurists and commentators, such as Aghnides, do 


Holger Weiss 

secular revenue was due to the different rules of state expenditure. Whereas 
religious revenue could only be spent according to the rules of the Qur'an, 
namely following sura 9:60, the expenditure of secular revenue was not 
earmarked by the Qur 'an or Muslim law. 

Further, a distinction was made between the classes of revenue which 
accrue to the Muslim community or the Islamic state as distinct from the Public 
Treasury or bayt al-mal. However, there is a disagreement between the various 
Muslim schools of law on what should constitute the Public Treasury. Four- 
fifths of the fay revenue, that is jizya and kharaj, goes to the Public Treasury, 
according to the ShafiT doctrine, whereas, according to the HanafI and Maliki 
doctrine, the entire fay goes to the Public Treasury. One-fifth of the fay, as well 
as one-fifth of the booty revenue, should be divided into three parts, namely 
the Prophet's share, the share of the Prophet's relatives and a trust fund for 
orphans, the indigent and wayfarers that would be part of the Public 
Treasury. Of this part, the Prophet's share would go to the Public Treasury, 
according to Maliki and ShafiT doctrine, whereas it should be kept outside the 
Public treasury according to the HanafI doctrine. The cases of zakat and ushr 
were even more complicated. According to the Maliki doctrine, zakat, which is 
levied on both apparent and non-apparent property, 40 should be paid to state 
officials and thus would be part of the Public Treasury. However, according to 
ShafiT doctrine, zakat on non-apparent property was under no circumstances 
part of the Public Treasury while zakat on apparent property might only be 
held as a trust and, as such, was not a part of the Public Treasury. 41 

Despite the efforts of the various Islamic schools of law to establish a 
genuine theory of how to handle social and economic problems of Muslim 
society, the outcome has been more or less confusing. One fundamental 
problem has been that the aim of the Muslim scholars was not the non-di- 
vine / secular society of the real world but was directed at speculation about 
the possibilities and outlines of a divine order. The fiscal and economic re¬ 
alities in Muslim societies were hardly mentioned. However, the legal 
speculation and outlines of Islamic taxation, together with the claimed re¬ 
sponsibilities of an Islamic state, were used by leaders of revivalist and reform 
movements in their critique of the state of affairs in Muslim societies and their 
call for an overthrow of 'unjust' rulers. The question of the just and legal 
collection of zakat was especially used by the critics of unpopular Muslim 
rulers. Taxation was condemned as non-Islamic and a true Islamic state was 
painted as the counter-factual cause for the critique of an unjust ruler. 

not make such a distinction. Interestingly, Doi argues that kharaj is not paid by Muslims but by 
non-Muslims and that it is the equivalent to ushr, which is not paid by non-Muslims. 

40 In general, apparent property consists of animals and crops whereas non-apparent property 
consists of personal wealth and articles of trade. However, the various Muslim schools of law 
disagree among themselves on this distinction (Aghnides 1916, 296-301). 

41 Aghnides 1916, 423-28. 


Zakat and the Question of Social Welfare 


A Call for Re-Opening the Rules of Zakat 

During the late 1970s, the Pakistani scholar Mahmud Ahmad sent out a 
questionnaire to about one hundred Muslim scholars and imams in Pakistan, 
asking them about the state of zakat and the possibilities of implementing 
some changes in the collection of zakat. 42 The background of this questionnaire 
was the attempt by the Pakistani government of General Zia ul-Haq to 
establish an 'Islamic economy' in Pakistan. 43 Apart from outlawing riba (in¬ 
terest), zakat was to be reinstated as an annual tax and would provide a social 
welfare fund. However, the attempt to build a social welfare system based on 
the collection of zakat seemed to have caused concern among some scholars that 
the conventional rate of zakat would be insufficient to meet the requirements of 
a modern social welfare system. Ahmad's agenda in his questionnaire was to 
ask the c ulama° about the possibility of raising the rate of zakat and extending 
the area of its impact: 

If the conventional rate of zakat be incapable of meeting the eight objectives prescribed 
for it by the Holy Qur'an (ix. 60), what should be the goal of our socio-economic think¬ 
ing: the eight objectives that are prescribed by the holy Book or the rate of zakat which 
is nowhere fixed by it? 44 

Ahmad further asked whether or not it is the duty of an Islamic state to raise 
the rate and extend the impact of zakat. He pointed out that due to the absence 
of an organised collection of zakat and the neglect of the wealthy class in 
Pakistan to alleviate the situation of poor people in the country, social 
stratification and marginalisation have become a profound problem in Paki¬ 
stan. He further criticised the argument by some scholars who forbid any 
changes in the rate of zakat and instead argued for the introduction of addi¬ 
tional taxes: 

42 See "A Questionnaire on Zakat/' in: Ahmad 1992. 

43 The Pakistani government enforced the Zakah and Ushr Ordinance in 1980. Under this law, 
zakat is deducted from the assets of the citizens held in the form of deposits and accounts with 
the scheduled banks and financial institutions on the first of Ramadan each year. Zakat is col¬ 
lected by the State Bank and deposited in the Federal Zakat Fund, which disburses the 
amounts to the provincial zakat departments. Of this money, some 40 per cent is then 
distributed to various institutions, such as schools and hospitals, whereas 60 per cent is 
channelled to one of the approximately 39,000 local zakat committees. In the end, according to 
official claims, some 1.1 million households throughout the whole country are said to benefit by 
a monthly subsistence allowance of Rs 500. Although its distribution seems to be efficient and 
well organised, the system has been criticised for having some major drawbacks, not least that 
the amount of monthly subsistence allowance is too low and its disbursement and coverage too 
irregular as to make a great impact. Above all, there is a profound reluctance on the part of the 
general population to pay zakiit to the state. See further Farhan, Muhamad, "The collection of 
zakah in Pakistan", http://www.Islamiq.Com:/news/features/print.php4?news=l_26092000 
(printed 6 May 2001). 

44 Ahmad 1992, 77-78. 


Holger Weiss 

If the anticipated income from zakat be not enough to meet even this target [i.e. the 
eradication of poverty, HW] and this has also to be supplemented by other taxes, do we 
not lose out of hand the entire significance of zakat? If zakat cannot even eradicate 
poverty, then what purpose zakat is supposed to serve? 4 ^ 

Ahmad's main argument was that there was a need to raise the rate of zakat, in 
fact, what he proposes is an extension and entire revision of the zafoff-rules. 
First, Ahmad argued that the rate of zakat is not fixed. To strengthen his 
argument, he pointed out that the rules of zakat were already revised by the 
second caliph, Umar, and proposed not only a correction of the rates but also 
an extension of the area of zakat. Ahmad asked the c ulama > whether or not it 
should be the task and duty of an Islamic state to meet the demands of social 
justice, to remove the privations of human beings, and to provide basic social 
welfare such as "... food, clothing, shelter, remuneration of physician, 
medicines, personal attendant to one incapable of helping himself and 
education" as well as it being the responsibility of the Islamic state to care for 
widows and orphans. 46 Yet, although Ahmad did give an outline of an Islamic 
social welfare system, he was aware of its restrictions—funded through 
traditional zakat it could not be realised: 

Can unchangeable rate of zakat achieve this objective plan when 50 to 60 % income- 
tax has failed to achieve it?... Would you not agree that insistence on the 
unchangeable character of details of zakat has been the biggest obstacle in the way of 
the establishment of Islamic social order in this country?... Is it not time that we open 
the closed gate of Islam?... 47 

Although it seems unlikely that Ahmad's questionnaire and his demand for a 
redefinition of the rules of zakat would have had a global impact, his attempt 
was, in a sense, a sign of an 'opening of the closed gate of Islam' regarding the 
collection and distribution of zakat. Since the 1980s, two discourses within the 
Muslim world are clearly identifiable, one where the role of the state and one 
where the role of non-governmental organisations is underlined. Muslim 
countries such as Pakistan, Malaysia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the Sudan 
have tried to introduce Islamic economics and to establish an Islamic social 
welfare system, whereas, especially in non-Muslim countries, Muslim NGOs 
have taken over the role of the Islamic state. The collection and distribution of 
zakat is a cornerstone in both systems, it is through zakat the system and its 
operations are financed. But whereas the collection and distribution of zakat 
within the state system is handled by state appointed and supervised bodies 
and zakat in fact resembles a mandatory obligation, even a religious tax, the 
activities of the Muslim NGOs are based on voluntary contributions. 

45 Ahmad 1992, 79. 

46 Ahmad 1992, 87-89. 

47 Ahmad 1992, 93, 108, 111. Ahmad points to some problems if a traditional zakat-mie were to 
be applied in Pakistan. For example, import duties on cars would be reduced from 100 per cent 
to 2.5 per cent, whereas imported cereals, on which there was no import duty, would also have 
to pay a 2.5 per cent import duty. 


Zakat and the Question of Social Welfare 

However, in both cases Muslims are urged to pay zakat. The argument that is 
stressed by both government as well as non-governmental organisations is 
that Muslims are obliged to pay zakat. Further, it is argued that through the 
collection of zakat, the provision of social welfare can be fulfilled. 

Regulating the Fifth Pillar in a Modern World —Fataivin on Zakat 

The modern—sunni—argumentation on zakat is reflected in the legal opinions 
(fataivin , sg. fatwa) produced by several special-purpose gatherings of Muslim 
scholars. In general, most of these fataivin deal with the question of state or 
public supervision of the collection and distribution of zakat. It is underlined in 
the fataivin that Islamic governments are obliged to establish a special 
organisation for collecting zakat. Such organisations would be supervised by 
religious scholars and 'efficient employees', and are urged to have a separate 
balance sheet. In non-Islamic countries, there should be societies which direct 
their efforts to the collection and distribution of zakat f 5 However, it is not 
allowed to deposit zakat monies in 'usurious' banks. 49 On the other hand, it is 
permissible to invest zakat money in productive projects run by zakat 
deserving recipients. Such projects would be supervised by the legal 
authority in charge of levying and distributing zakat. 50 Moreover, it is stated 
that the lunar calendar should be taken into consideration when preparing 
the balance sheet. 51 

Another conclusion reached in the fataivin is that taxes are to be levied by 
the state and that the payment of taxes does not replace the payment of zakat. 
Following traditional zakat-rules, it is underlined that zakat is due on mature 
people as well as those under age, but in the latter case their guardians will 
give zakat on behalf on them. However, the method of levying and 
distributing zakat should follow the conditions of each country [emphasis mine]. 52 
Thus, national, if not local, conditions would regulate zakat. Does this mean that 
a universal praxis or guideline is considered non-existent—apart from the 
general rules of zakat ? 

48 Fatwa delivered by the First Symposium of Zakah Contemporary Issues, Cairo 25 October 
1988, 6. The obligatory nature of Zakah and the role of governments in Zakah collection and 
distribution, see http:/ / (printed 25 January 2001). 

49 Fatwa delivered by the Third Conference of the Islamic Bank held in Dubai, 23 September 
1985, see http:/ / (printed 25 January 2001). 

50 Fatwa delivered by the Islamic Jurisprudence Academy of the Islamic Conference 
Organisation in Jeddah as well as Fatwa delivered by the Third Symposium on Zakah 
Contemporary Issues, Kuwait 2 December 1992, 'First: Investment of Zakah funds/ see 
http:/ / (both printed 25 January 2001). 

51 Fatwa delivered by the First Zakah Conference, Kuwait 3 April 1984, '5. The lunar calendar/ 
see http:/ / (printed 25 January 2001). 

52 Fatwa delivered by the Second Conference of the Islamic Research Academy in Cairo, see 
http:/ / (printed 25 January 2001). 


Holger Weiss 

According to the legal declarations, however, secular taxes should not be 
mixed with or replace zakat. The balance sheet of the state should be financed 
by the revenues of the public possessions and other legal financial resources. If 
they are not sufficient, a government may fairly impose taxes in order to meet 
its expenditures and submit help to z akat recipients if zakat money is not 
sufficient. It is not allowed to use zakat money for meeting their expenditures. 
Taxes do not replace zakat because they were imposed by two different 
authorities and for extremely divergent targets. Besides, the amount and 
channels of both are entirely different. Therefore, taxes are not to be deducted 
from obligatory zakat money. In addition, it is recommended that zakat money 
should be deducted from taxes. 53 

Following both traditional argumentation as well as modern Islamic 
economics, zakat is identified as providing the basis for achieving social soli¬ 
darity in the Islamic countries. 54 Zakat is identified as enabling the fulfilment of 
basic needs of the poor with regard to the provision of social welfare. 'Basic 
needs' are defined as necessities required for achieving sufficiency, such as 
food, accommodation and clothes, without extravagance or parsimony and social 
solidarity according to the prevalent customs [emphasis mine]. 55 In addition, zakat 
money can be used in establishing service projects such as building schools, 
hospitals, orphanages and libraries. Such social projects would be run by the 
z akat recipients but managed by the government or its representatives. Free 
access for the use of social projects should only be provided to the zakat 
recipients. 56 

When discussing the distribution of zakat, a rather traditional interpre¬ 
tation is applied, yet with less stress on the location. Although z akat should be 
distributed to the recipients in the territory where it is levied, it is permissible 
to transfer zakat to other territories as a means of achieving a legal target. 57 
Such targets could be, among others, Da'wa centres with the aim of spreading 
Islam as well as the establishment of mosques in non-Muslim countries or to 
use z akat money to urge governments to improve the conditions of the Islamic 
minorities and support them in non-Muslim countries. 58 

53 Fatwa delivered by the Fourth Symposium on Zakah Contemporary Issues, Bahrain 29 
March 1994, 'Third: Zakah and Taxes/ see (printed 25 
January 2001). 

54 Fatwa delivered by the Second Conference of the Islamic Research Academy in Cairo, see 
http:/ / (printed 25 January 2001). 

55 Fatwa delivered by the First Symposium of Zakah Contemporary Issues, Cairo 25 October 

1988, '8. Zakah and fulfilling the basic needs of the poor/ see http:/ / 
(printed 21 January 2001). 

56 Fatwa delivered by the Third Symposium on Zakah Contemporary Issues, Kuwait 2 
December 1992, 'Second: The recipients' possession of Zakah money/ see http://zakat.Al- (printed 25 January 2001). 

57 Fatwa delivered by the Second Symposium on Zakah Contemporary Issues, Kuwait 25 June 

1989, see http:/ / (printed 25 January 2001). 

58 Fatwa delivered by the First Symposium of Zakah Contemporary Issues, Cairo 25 October 
1988, '7. The Zakah channel: "in the way of Allah",' see 
(printed 25 January 2001). See also the Decrees issued by the Islamic Jurisprudence Academy in 


Zakat and the Question of Social Welfare 

A crucial case concerns whether an Islamic state could provide funds for 
international relief organisations. The matter was discussed by the jurists with 
regard to the Islamic Solidarity Fund (ISF). It was declared that it is not 
permissible to give zakat to the ISF. This fund was established by the ICO 
(Islamic Conference Organisation) to provide funds for social welfare projects 
in the Islamic world. The ISF was supposed to be financed by ICO member 
states and organisations. However, the Islamic Jurisprudence Academy in 
Jeddah declared in a fatwa that the ISF could receive zakat from individuals and 
organisations as well, provided that the ISF allocates a special account for zakat 
money and that the receiver is granted the right to decide which of the eight 
categories is to be supported. 59 Thus, the ISF was made equal with the state as 
the supervisor of zakat, and by analogy, similar organisations could claim the 
same status. 

However, with regards to national and non-governmental organisations, 
a different approach was chosen by the legal authorities. Modern zakat 
organisations and committees are to be considered as a modern form of the old 
charity houses known in Islam. Such committees should be controlled and 
supervised by the authority which forms them. Employees in such or¬ 
ganisations should meet the conditions required for whoever is employed to 
administer zakat. The employees' remuneration and administrative expenses 
could be drawn from the Public Treasury, or, if this is not possible, from zakat 
funds, though not more than one-eighth of the total zakat money. 60 

Independent Governmental Bodies 

The Kuwaiti Zakah House is one of those modern zakat organisations discussed 
in the fatawin of Sunni scholars. It was established by the Kuwaiti government 
in 1982 and was charged with collecting and distributing zakat in Kuwait as 
well as supporting groups outside Kuwait and charitable projects world¬ 
wide. 61 All the above quoted fatawin and symposiums of Muslim scholars 
were in fact organised by the Kuwaiti Zakah House. According to their www- 

Mecca (Islamic World League), (printed 25 January 2001), 
Fourth Decree—Eighth Session, Levying and Distributing Zakah in Pakistan, as well as Fatwa 
delivered by the Third Symposium on Zakah Contemporary Issues, Kuwait 2 December 1992, 
'Third: The channel of those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to the truth)/ see 
http:/ / (printed 25 January 2001). 

59 Fatwa delivered by the Islamic Jurisprudence Academy of the Islamic Conference 
Organisation in Jeddah, see http: / / (printed 25 January 2001). 

60 Fatwa delivered by the Fourth Symposium on Zakah Contemporary Issues, Bahrain 29 
March 1994, 'First: The channel of those employed to administer Zakah/ see http://zakat.Al- (printed 25 January 2001). 

61 For a list of projects and achievements inside Kuwait, see "Activities of Zakah House/' 
http:/ / (printed 25 January 2001). However, I have not been able to 
locate a list or presentation of projects outside Kuwait financed through funds provided by the 
Kuwaiti Zakah House. During my fieldwork in Ghana, I noticed that some of the Muslim NGOs 
receive substantial financial backing from the Kuwaiti Zakah House. 


Holger Weiss 

(The Kuwaiti Zakah House) is considered the first organisation in the Arab World that 
adopts scientific application of the obligation of Zakah, including collection and distri¬ 
bution, publishing related books, information and fata win and conducting social studies 
to identify those entitled to receive Zakah. 62 

In fact, one could argue that such an organisation is in one sense rather similar 
to Western charitable organisations, such as the various Catholic relief 
organisations (Caritas), Oxfam or the Red Cross. However, in one perspective 
a z akat committee differs from these Western organisations, namely in its role 
for channelling obligatory alms. Further, the Kuwaiti Zakah House, like 
similar zakat organisations, is a public but independent organisation. In 
Kuwait, the organisation is under the supervision of the Ministry of Awqaf 
and Islamic Affairs, the Minister of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs heading the 
board of the organisation. However, as an independent body, the Kuwaiti 
Zakah House cannot implement zakat as a tax (which is ruled out by the fatawin 
produced by its scholars). Instead, the resources of the Kuwaiti Zakah House 
are made up from free contributions— zakat —of individuals and groups, 
endowments and donations received by the board of directors from other 
public organisations and institutions, associations, companies and individuals 
as well as subsidies provided by the State. 63 

A similar picture prevails in other Gulf countries. As in Kuwait, zakat is 
not compulsory but paid voluntarily by the Muslim citizens of Bahrain and 
the United Arab Emitrates. In Bahrain, zakat is collected by a "semi-govern- 
mental" body, the zakat fund, which was established in 1979. However, as in 
Kuwait, this body is not entirely independent as there are links to the Ministry 
of Justice and Islamic Affairs and its board comprises both citizens and officials. 
The basic funding is generated through voluntary contributions, but, as Sani 
Ali Eid, the director of Islamic Affairs at the Ministry of Justice and Islamic 
Affairs, underlined in an interview, "the government helps in the collection 
and distribution of zakat ." 64 

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is home to many charitable and hu¬ 
manitarian organisations, some semi-governmental, like the Dubai Charity 
Organisation (DCO), whereas others are non-governmental ones, like the Red 
Crescent Society (RCS), Charity International, and Human Appeal In¬ 
ternational (HAI). Although most of these organisations are said to be NGOs, 
government involvement seems to occur in most of the big organisations as 
every three years the Ministry of Labour together with the Diwan (Ruler's) 
Office appoint a few officials to represent a board which oversees the activities 
of each charitable organisation in the country. Most of the fund-raising 

62 "The Role of the Zakah House, (printed 25 January 2001). 

63 "The Decree of establishing Zakah House," (printed 25 
January 2001). 

64 Chand, Indira, "Public confidence needed in zakah organisation," http://www.Islamiq. 
Com:/news/features/print.php4?news=l_04102000 (published 4 October 2000; printed 6 June 
2001). According to Sani Ali Eid, the Bahrain zakat fund is mainly engaged in supporting poor 
families. During the year 2000, some 2,165 families received help. 


Zakat and the Question of Social Welfare 

activities and the payment of zakat occur during Ramadan. As in Bahrain and 
Kuwait, however, zakat is a voluntary or private matter, being collected 
through collection boxes that are made available at all the mosques, major 
shopping centres and other similar outlets. 65 

However, whereas one could argue that the collection of zakat in rather 
affluent and oil rich Arab countries has resulted in the establishment of public, 
but independent governmental zakat organisations, such conditions do not 
prevail in most other Muslim countries. In Morocco, for example, there has 
been a discussion about turning zakat into an effective tax on the better off to 
help homeless and disabled poor children. 66 In contrast to Kuwait, the 
Moroccan debate is about whether zakat should become a tax—once again. In 
fact, it was only during the seventeenth century that the Moroccan state 
transferred the duty of collection and distribution of zakat to the local imams. 67 
What remained of zakat in the public sphere was lost during the French 
protectorate and today zakat is perceived by most Moroccans as 'alms'. But with 
the rise in population and the poor economic foundation of the country during 
the latter half of the twentieth century, street children and poverty became 
widespread. Yet, before 1998 and the demand of the reintroduction of zakat as 
a—social—tax, only a few Muslim NGOs tackling social matters existed and 
those who did concentrated their efforts on the cities. 68 

Some twelve years later, it seems as if not much has been done. Ac¬ 
cording to Jamal En-Nehas, despite the interest expressed by the late king 
Hussein II to have zakat formalised, "the idea is still in an embryonic stage." 
The idea of King Hussein was to set up collection and distribution banks as 
well as put forward a plan whereby zakat, in emulation of income tax, could be 
deducted from government pay cheques—a similar procedure to the one in 
Pakistan at present. However, due to technical and logistical difficulties and 
above all the reluctance and distrust of the Muslim population towards a state 
supervised collection of zakat, the collection and distribution of zakat has so far 
remained largely a private matter. Thus, En-Nehas is rather critical about the 
use of zakat as a tool to provide social welfare in Morocco: 

It is uncommon to see zakah payers co-ordinating their efforts to collect and channel 
funds judiciously in the general interest of the nation. [...] One of the immediate 
consequences of this situation is the inefficient management of zakah resources, which 
often results in its arbitrary distribution and the lack of a clear Islamic welfare vision.® 

65 Abdalla, Cindy, "Zakah distribution in the UAE/' http://www.Islamiq.Com:/news/ 
features/print.php4?news=l_27102000 (published 27 October 2000; printed 6 June 2001). 

66 Al-Ali, Nizar, "Traditional Islamic Alms Help Street Children," 
/ips2/jul98/ 13_23_039.html (printed 16 March 2000). 

67 Rodriguez-Manas 1966. 

68 Al-Ali, Nizar, "Traditional Islamic Alms Help Street Children". 

69 En-Nehas, Jamal, "Reflections on zakah in Morocco," http://www.Islamiq.Com:/news 
/features/print.php4?news=2_18082000 (published 18 August 2000; printed 6 June 2001). 


Holger Weiss 

Muslim NGOs and the Collection of Zakat 

As the fatawin referred to above have stated, Islamic governments are obliged 
to establish a special organisation for collecting zakat. In non-Islamic or non- 
Muslim countries, the duty to collect zakat is said to be transferred to non¬ 
governmental societies or NGOs. Such a situation is a rather new one. Muslim 
NGOs engaged in collecting zakat have existed since the 1980s; in fact, almost 
all of those societies that could be located on the internet have been 
established during the last twenty years or so. However, Muslim societies 
engaged in social welfare projects are nothing new. In Egypt, for example, 
there exists a range of organisations that have been engaged in social welfare 
projects for a long time. 70 Of equal importance, although most often forgotten 
in modern discourse, has been the traditional way of providing organised 
social welfare through awcjaf establishments and through the Sufi orders. 71 

Especially in non-Muslim countries, the local mosque has been and 
continues to be the foremost institution to collect and distribute zakat. Other 
avenues have been and are the Islamic schools, and a third way has been for 
people to send zakat back to their families and communities in their home 
countries. However, since the 1980s Muslim NGOs and relief organisations in 
the West (USA, Canada, UK) have become an increasingly popular avenue of 
zakat collection and distribution. This development reflects the situation of the 
Muslim communities in non-Muslim countries: as there is no governmental or 
state engagement in the collection and supervision of zakat, the Third Pillar 
becomes a private matter. Or, as the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) 
has underlined, "... if there is no alternative available, it is permissible to take 
out zakah and to distribute it on an individual basis." 72 

The difference between these older establishments and the modern 
Muslim NGOs seems to be their stress on the collection and distribution of 
zakat as well as their link to the government or position as an 'official' though 
independent body. Last but not least, the trade mark of modern Muslim 
NGOs seems to be their use of Western vocabulary as well as modern 
techniques—above all the internet, thus being in the end equal to Western 
NGOs in terms of objectives and means. Such a situation becomes especially 
widespread in the USA, Canada and the UK, where there exists a great 
variety of Muslim NGOs. Some of the Muslim umbrella organisations do not 
claim to collect and distribute zakat, whereas others do. For example, the 
Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), demonstrates typical activities of a 

70 See further Sullivan 1994. For a discussion on Islamic economics and Islamic social welfare 
institutions in Egypt, see Wippel 1995. 

71 See, among others, Kogelmann 1999. On the provision of social welfare through ivaqf 
institutions, see further Kogelmann in this volume (Chapter III); on the role of Sufi shaikhs and 
orders, see the contributions of Vikor (Chapter IV), Seesemann (Chapter V) and Loimeier 
(Chapter VI). 

72 Quoted in Baroud, Ramzy, "Alternative avenues for zakah collection in the US," http:// 
www.Islamiq.Com:/news/features/print.php4?news=l_10012001 (published 10 January 2001; 
printed 6 June 2001). 


Zakat and the Question of Social Welfare 

Muslim NGO. Apart from giving support to schools and community centres, 
the ISNA has a so-called Zakah Fund: 

The Zakah Fund is maintained by donations of individuals and affiliates. It is designed 
to help the needy, orphans, and any person who qualifies, according to the guidelines, 
for receiving Zakah. 73 

However, it could be claimed that the call for donations by individuals would 
rather resemble sadaqa —or voluntary almsgiving—than zakat. 

In general, Muslim Relief Organisations claim to collect and distribute 
zakat? 3 Compared with the outlook of the ISNA, international Muslim Relief 
Organisations openly invite Muslims to donate their annual zakat to them. 
Thus, Care International, for example, a US-based Muslim NGO founded in 
1993, provides a sophisticated online 'Zakat Calculation Guide' and declares 

... Care's projects range all the way from distributing Zakat money amongst its rightful 
receivers to distributing Udhiyas (Qurbanis) amongst the needy. 73 

Similarly 'Interactive Zakat Worksheets' and 'online payment' of zakat are 
provided by, among others, the Global Relief Foundation, 76 the Islamic Circle 
of North America (ICNA Relief-Helping Hand), 77 Human Concern In¬ 
ternational, 78 Islamic Relief, 79 and Muslim Aid. 80 National Muslim NGOs, 
such as Zakat Fund, a Lebanese 'humanitarian philanthropic establish¬ 
ment', 81 Qatar Charity Society, 82 and Crescent Medical Aid Kenya also collect 
zakat. 83 Other online zafef-collecting organisations have a more national focus 

73 See further http:/ 

71 For a list of Muslim Relief Organisations in North America, see 
resources / Relief_Orgs.html. 

75 See further http:/ / 

76 See further http:/ / 

77 See further http:/ / 

78 See further http:/ / This organisation was founded in 1980. 

79 See further http:/ / Islamic Relief is a UK-based international 
relief and development organisation founded in 1984. The organisation is a member of the 
International Islamic Committee for Relief under the auspices of Al-Azhar and has a consulting 
status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. In fact, Islamic Relief does 
not openly declare it collects and distributes zakat but solicits Muslims for 'donations'. 

80 See further Muslim Aid is an UK-based international relief 
organisation. It was founded in 1985. 

81 See further http:/ / The organisation was founded in 1984. 

82 See further http:/ / 

83 See further This organisation was 
already established in 1976. 


Holger Weiss 

of their activities, such as Muslim Welfare Center (Canada) and Life for 
Relief and Development (USA and Canada). 85 

As noted above, the structures of the various Muslim Relief Organisa¬ 
tions are similar to those of Western Relief and Development Organisations. 
Assistance is given both in terms of emergency relief as well as through de¬ 
velopment projects and programmes, focussing on the promotion of social 
welfare in local societies. Some of the Muslim NGOs focus on providing help to 
Muslim societies, including the establishment of mosques, community centres 
and education programmes, whereas others, such as Muslim Aid, claim to 
help 'the poor and the needy regardless of race, ethnicity, colour or religion'. 

Muslim NGOs, like Western NGOs, are visible signs of an emerging 
civil society. In Western non-Muslim countries, Muslim NGOs are able to act 
within Western civil society—raising funds and presenting a Muslim alter¬ 
native to the public sector. This is also the case in the societies and regions that 
receive help—NGOs working within a particular state, not through or with 
the state's assistance but mostly with its official blessing. Muslim NGOs have 
thus become or are about to become a substitute for public social welfare, in 
some cases replacing the state as the provider of collective social welfare. 

Especially in an Islamic context, the role of the NGOs is problematic. 
Some scholars, such as Shaikh Omar Bakri Muhammad in the UK, criticise the 
activities of the Muslim NGOs, especially those who claim to collect z akat. Only 
an Islamic state can collect z akat and it should be the responsibility of the 
Islamic state to care for social welfare: 

As for sending the army of Jihad to fight the disbelievers, punishing the apostates and 
the rebels of those liable for punishment, sending the money of the Bait-ul-Maal to the 
eligible recipients, collecting Zakat from those liable to pay it, appointing judges and 
governors, dividing the booty or signing treaties and truces, these are all the responsi¬ 
bility of the Khalifa alone or his appointees and are not permitted for anyone else... 

The continuous management of the affairs of the Muslim Ummah e.g. to govern them 
by Islam, implement the penal system, impose judgements on them, declare offensive 
Jihad, enter into treaties, build motorways, hospitals and schools, collect and distribute 
Zakat etc ... is the duty of the Khalifah alone i.e. the Islamic State. 86 

His main critique and disapproval concerns Muslim charitable organi¬ 

From the moment the Islamic state was destroyed until today we have heard some 
very strange Fatwas and opinions far removed from Islam and legitimate Ijtihad and 
concerning clear-cut text...[among others] permitting charitable organisations to look 
after the affairs of the people by taking over the role of the state, for example, collecting 

84 See further http:/ / 

85 See further http: / / 

86 Muhammad, Omar Bakri, "The Status of Charity Organisations in Islam," in: http://, 3, 8 (printed 16 March 2000). 


Zakat and the Question of Social Welfare 

Zakat with the lame excuse that we must find a practical alternative whilst the Khalifa 
is absent. 87 

Most of the Muslim NGOs deduct some percentage of their income to pay for 
employees and cover their administrative expenses. 88 According to the 
argumentation of the NGOs, they are allowed to do so even from an Islamic 
perspective as the rules of zakat grant the collectors a share of zakat. Shaikh 
Omar Bakri Muhammad, however, disapproves: 

The False 'Aamileen A'liyha, the so-called collectors from charitable organisations such 
as Muslim Aid and Islamic Relief, are not included in the above verse [referring to sura 
9: 60, HW] nor are they ATAamileen A'liyha i.e. those appointed by Al-Khalifah to col¬ 
lect and distribute Al-Zakat. 8 ® 

Thus, the opinion of the Shaikh concerning Muslim NGOs is a negative one, as 
these organisations seem to replace the state and take over state responsibility. 
On the other hand, one could argue that the Shaikh represents a Malikl 
interpretation, i.e., one that argues for a decisive role of the state with regard to 
the collection and distribution of zakat. 90 A counter-argument is provided by 
those NGOs that refer to a HanafI or ShafiT interpretation: 

If there is no alternative, it is permissible to take out Zakat and distribute it on an indi¬ 
vidual basis. But efforts should always be made to collectivize the giving of Zakah in 
order that its distribution be conducted systematically.9! 

Similar critical interpretations by Muslim scholars concerning the use of zakat 
funds and their collection through organisations are rather general. In most 
cases, the debate is about whether organisations are in the position to collect 
and distribute zakat as they would replace the effort of a pious act of an 
individual to another individual. Another question has been whether zakat 
money can be given to construct mosques, schools and hospitals. 92 

87 Muhammad, "The Status of Charity Organisations in Islam," 6. 

88 According to the information given by Muslim Aid, the organisation disburses 87 per cent of 
all donations. 

89 Muhammad, "The Status of Charity Organisations in Islam," page 7. A similar conclusion 
was reached by one mufti Taqi Usmani: 

"It is not permissible for such private organisations to spend the zakat money to cover 
their administrative costs. ... It is applicable only in the context of an Islamic State 
which duly manages collection and distribution of zakat. This principle cannot be 
extended to the employees of private organisations." 

However, according to the mufti, it is permissible for Muslim NGOs to collect and distribute 
zakat money as long as they observe the rules of zakat. See further Usmani, Taqi "Use of Zakat 
for Administrative Expenses of Charities," 
_expenses.shtml (printed 22 January 2001). 

90 In fact. Shaikh Omar himself points towards such an interpretation, saying that "Muslims 
with their slave mentality continue to talk about benefit and interest and continue to distort 
the Malikl school of thought and its adoption of Al-Masaalih Al-Mursalah (p. 5)." 

91 See further http:/ /, and http:/ / 

92 See, among others, http:/ / as well as Weiss 2000. 


Holger Weiss 

A third, and increasingly debated matter, especially among Muslim 
scholars in the West, is the question of the use of modern technology, such as 
telephones and the online collection of zakat. According to Ramzy Baroud, 
online zakat payment has opened a limitless window of opportunity for the 
collection and distribution of zakat in general and Muslim NGOs in particular: 

Internet users can now simply browse through various web sites, pick up the organiza¬ 
tion of their choice and deposit their zakah contribution, safe in the knowledge that it 
will be distributed to the needy.93 

Concerning the matter of zakat collection by private organisations, one US 
mufti, Muzammil Siddiqi, stressed in a fatwa the obligation of the donors to 
check the background of these organisations and to make sure that zakat is 
dispersed according to Islamic principles, underlining that "once zakah is 
donated through reliable and trustworthy institutions, it is paid." Thus, in this 
respect Mufti Muzammil takes a positive stance on the question of Muslim 
NGOs collecting zakat. Still, as Baroud notes, one key problem is that there is no 
precise scale to monitor which organisations are trustworthy and reliable, the 
only possibility being a maximum amount of transparency, as some authors 
have claimed. 94 

An Islamic State? 

The Malaysian Example with a Note on Singapur 

Whereas the collection and distribution of zakat through Muslim NGOs might 
open the way for an emerging Muslim civil society, in other regions a 
different approach towards the handling of zakat has been applied, namely 
that of direct state supervision. Although it could be argued that such a system 
would come close to meeting the demands of the critics of Muslim NGOs, a 
state-controlled system is itself not lacking its drawbacks and critics, as the 
research of James Scott on Malaysia implies. 95 In Malaysia, each of the 14 
Islamic Councils established zakat collection centres during the early 1990s. 
Whereas the Islamic Councils of the 13 states handle the collection and 
distribution of zakat, the Islamic Council of the Federal Territory has set up a 
special collection centre, the PPZ or Pusat Pungutan Zakat. As in Kuwait, the 
Islamic Councils are not part of the Federal or State government nor is the 
collection of zakat directly a state matter. Indirectly, however, the Islamic 

93 Baroud, Ramzy, "Channels to distribute Zakah in Canada," http://www.Islamiq.Com: 
/news/features/print.php4?news=l_19012001 (published 19 January 2001; printed 6 June 
2001). A similar testimony for the UK is put forward by Najat Rashid, "for younger Muslims the 
cyber-age has provided them with a suitable alternative. Donations via telephone or 
increasingly, the internet are the most popular alternative forms of zakah payment in the UK." 
See further Rashid, Najat, "The Changing Trends of Zakah Collection and Distribution in the 
UK," http://www.Islamiq.Com:/news/features/print.php4?news=l_13032001 (published 13 
March 2001; printed 6 June 2001). 

94 See further Baroud, "Alternative avenues for zakah collection in the US". 

95 See further Scott 1987. 


Zakat and the Question of Social Welfare 

Councils have a close link to the government as they have been established 
either through Federal or State Legislation. Thus, with regard to zakat, one 
could claim that the state has transferred the obligation of collecting and 
distributing zakat to the Councils; the Councils being responsible to the Sultan 
or Ruler of each State. 96 

There is one obvious difference between the Muslim NGOs and the 
Malaysian case in the collection of zakat, namely in its calculation. Whereas the 
Muslim NGOs use a uniform flat rate of 2.5 per cent (or, if referring to donors 
in general, an unspecified amount of money), the calculation of zakat in 
Malaysia follows the outlines of the zafe/-rules, namely including zakat on crops 
(five to ten per cent) and on livestock (rate depending on the type of animal). 
Furthermore, at least in theory, savings, businesses and shares should also be 
zakatable. 97 However, in practice, zakat on wealth has been irregular and there 
are plans under way to make it compulsory for Muslims to pay zakat from 
earnings, savings and businesses. In a press release in January 2001, 
government sources reported that only ten per cent of the annual zakat 
collection is from Muslim business enterprises and corporations, thus 
indicating that the burden of zakat so far has lain on individuals. However, 
although zakat on wealth is collected, only zakat fitrali (zakat al-fitr ) or zakat 
collected during the month of Ramadan is compulsory under Malaysian 
law. 98 However, zakat al-fitr only amounts to about 4 per cent of the total 
amount of zakat collected 99 According to official statistics, zakat amounting to a 
total of RM 203 million was collected during 1997, whereas it is calculated that 
the potential could be RM 300 million for the whole country. 100 

According to data published by the PPZ, the collection of zakat — 
excepting zakat al-fitr— in the Federal Territory amounted to about RM 43.3 
million (about £ 6.8 million) in 1998. This amount can be compared to the 
donations to Muslim Aid, which were about £ 2.8 million for 1998/99. 
However, due to the economic turmoil and downturn in Asian economies, the 
amount of zakat has decreased; during 1997 the FT Islamic Council had 
received about RM 50.3 million. 101 On the other hand, the rate of zakat col¬ 
lection for the whole decade shows a remarkable increase in zakat for the 
PPZ—starting with RM 13.5 million and 11,816 payers during 1991 to RM 43.6 
million and 23,618 payers during 1998. 102 

96 See further This site provides detailed information on the PPZ, 
including annual reports. 

97 See further http:/ / 

98 Wahab, Adlina, "Zakat payment to be must," 
htm (printed 25 January 2001). 

99 Numbers available only for the PPZ, see further 

100 See further http:/ / 

101 See further http:/ / 

102 See further During the top year, 
1997, almost 30,000 payers paidRM 50.6 million in zakat. 


Holger Weiss 

Hajj Mohamed Dahan attributes the low result of payment of zakat on 
wealth to the lack of an organised system of collection as well as distribution. 
Although there exists an officially authorised super-structure, such as the PPZ 
and the various other zakat funds of the Islamic Councils, problems arise on the 
local level as well as in those communities not properly organised (although 
in this case Dahan seems to speak in general terms and not refer to the case of 
Malaysia). In general, however, Dahan raises an argument for the 
establishment of a proper zakat administration and authority, either through 
the government or, in the case of a non-Muslim country, the local Muslim 

If a community has agreed generally that a certain organisation should be responsible, 
then zakat should be channelled to it. The organisation must then organise the pro¬ 
grams and channel of distribution, within the prescribed categories. Administration 
costs for example are allowed, but must never exceed 1 /8 th of total zakat available. 
Paying direct to the needy individually uwuld not create long term and sustained benefits, and 
there won't he a zakat institution to be responsible overall [emphasis mine, HW]. 1 ® 

The collection and distribution of zakat is handled in a similar way in Singapur. 
Established in 1968 as a statutory body by the government, the Majlis Ugama 
Islam Singapura (MUIS or the Islamic Religious Council of Singapur) is 
entrusted with collecting both the zakat al-fitr as well as the zakat on wealth. 
MUIS is under the auspices of the Ministry of Community Development and 
Sports and has access to the government's Muslim database to promote the 
collection of zakat. Zakat can be paid either in cash to one of the 62 collection 
centres that are located at various mosques and Islamic organisations, or by 
cheque, money order or bank draft payable to MUIS. In addition, there exists a 
"zakah hotline", where zakat can be paid over the phone. However, as in 
Malaysia, state collection of zakat still needs to be rooted among the population. 
Vardan notes that only some 12 per cent of a Muslim working population of 
some 130,000 persons in Singapur actually pay zakat and that the majority of 
the zakat payers are above 40 years old. 104 

The above examples seem to point to the fact that state collection of zakat 
does not seem to be too popular—at least not in the cases so far discussed, 
namely Pakistan (see footnote 43), Malaysia and Singapur. Some Muslim 
jurists, such as Shaikh Nedham Yaquby, even claim that the state should not 
be involved at all in the collection and distribution of zakat. Shaykh Nedham 
prefers no government interference at all: "Governments should, in fact, stay 
out of the collection and distribution of zakah, if zakah funds are to enjoy 
public confidence," and he points to the fact that "people, generally, don't 
have confidence in bureaucracy." 105 

103 Dahan, Haji Mohamed, "Zakat in Malaysia", 
(printed 16 March 2000). 

104 Vardhan, S., "Zakah in Singapore: Riding on Technology," http://www.Islamiq.Com: 
/news/features/print.php4?news=l_05012001 (published 5 January 2001; printed 5 June 
2001). See also http:/ / 

105 Quoted in Chand, "Public confidence needed in zakah organisations". 


Zakat and the Question of Social Welfare 

The Situation in West Africa: A Plea for Further Research 

So far the collection and distribution of zakat has been discussed in a non- 
African Muslim context. Outside sub-Saharan Africa, a wide range of semi- 
governmental as well as non-governmental organisations and zakat bodies 
have been identified and presented. Thus, there should be no doubt about the 
existence of zakat in the modern Muslim world. What seems to be the crucial 
debate about zakat is whether it should be handled as a private or a public 
matter, especially if the collection and distribution of zakat should or could be 
systematised and institutionalised. At least two models can be outlined, one 
where zakat is collected and distributed by independent bodies and the other 
where the government is at least to some extent engaged in the collection and 
distribution of zakat. The dividing line seems to be whether one is dealing with 
a Muslim or a non-Muslim society. However, what seems to be of particular 
interest is the fact that none of the public institutions discussed have been 
established within or by an Islamic state—such a state being, so far, a more or 
less theoretical construct. On the other hand, what is evident from the 
discussion above is the impetus by some Islamic economists and Muslim 
scholars to combine Islamic economics with the requirement of establishing an 
Islamic order and an Islamic state. Within such a discourse, zakat inevitably 
becomes part of a political discourse, namely that of Islamism. 

Compared with the rest of the Muslim world, the position of zakat in sub- 
Saharan countries and Muslim societies is not well known. Zakat was part of 
the public sphere in several pre-colonial Muslim states of the Sudan savannah, 
such as the Diina of Masina, the Sokoto Caliphate and the Mahdiyya in the 
Nilotic Sudan, although not much is known about its actual collection, 
distribution and impact. 106 The various colonial regimes abolished zakat as a 
tax throughout their realms and almost none of the post-colonial states have 
reintroduced zakat as a tax—one notable exception being the Sudan. 

However, apart from being applied as a tax in pre-colonial Muslim states, 
zakat was part of the Islamic order that was established and prevailed in 
Muslim enclaves and communities, such as the estates of holy men, Sufi 
shaikhs and learned men. These enclaves and communities existed through¬ 
out Sudanic Africa, both in Muslim and non-Muslim states. A general feature 
of these enclaves was that the scholars or holy men had been granted tax 
exemptions by the local rulers, thus becoming in economic terms autonomous 
from the local ruler. However, an Islamic order was usually established within 
their communities, one visible sign being, among others, the payment of zakat 
to the holy men or the local imam, who in his turn would distribute it to those 
in need. 107 

The post-colonial situation concerning zakat in sub-Saharan Africa is 
somewhat puzzling, not least due to the lack of research and insight on this 

106 See further Hunwick 199 and Weiss (forthcoming). 

107 This subject is discussed in the seventh chapter of my forthcoming monograph. 


Holger Weiss 

subject. It is known that zakat is collected in Northern Nigeria—at least in Kano 
state there existed at the beginning of the 1990s an organisation called Kano 
State Council for Zakat Collection and Distribution , 108 and it is known that the 
payment of zakat was not questioned by Hausa businessmen, 109 but not as a 
tax—rather as a religious contribution. It seems as if there has been an attempt 
to centralise the collection and distribution of zakat in Northern Nigeria since 
the 1960s. One of the achievements of Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, 
through the establishment of the Jamd c at Nasr al-Isldm, the Society for the 
Support of Islam or JNI, which was planned to become a platform for and unite 
the various factions of Muslims and the various Sufi orders during the early 
1960s, was to establish the yearly rates (nisab) of zakdtf w However, the 
functions and impact of the zakat organisation in Kano and other places have 
not been studied. One could also argue that the upsurge of Islamic economics 
in some Nigerian universities, especially Usmanu Danfodio University at 
Sokoto, during the 1980s and 1990s or the arrangements of national seminars 
on zakat, such as the one organised at Bayero University in Kano during 1982, 
and learned articles on zakat by Muslim scholars in the newspapers, are all 
signs that the prevailing conditions in Northern Nigeria are felt by Islamic 
scholars to be insufficient. 111 

However, although in Northern Nigeria the introduction or adoption of 
the shari c a in some Northern states during the first years of the third millen¬ 
nium AD might create space for the introduction of an Islamic economy, the 
secession of some of the Northern state of Nigeria and fear (or fear of the 
possibility) of the establishment of an Islamic state is contested by academic 
observers. 112 The foundations as well as outlook for the Nigerian economy 
have been rather weak since the downturn during the 1980s and Structural 
Adjustment Programmes and other imposed economic and fiscal pressures on 
the common people have added to their plight. There exists neither a state-run 
(public) social welfare programme nor an efficient competing Muslim one. 
Private Muslim NGOs and establishments do exist, building and running 
mosques, educational programmes, schools and institutions as well as health 
clinics, orphanages and nurseries, but seemingly without any central co¬ 
ordination. 113 In fact, along with the implementation of Islamic Law, most of 
the Northern states have also set up zakat funds. Thus, for example Kebbi, 
Bauchi and Borno states are said to have formed committees that would be 
responsible for the collection and distribution of zakat, indicating, on the one 

108 Reference found in a local newspaper. The Triumph 9.6.1990. 

109 Blanckmeister 1992, 26-27. 

110 Until the late 1980s, however, the JNI had been blocked as a platform for all Muslims 
because of the internal conflicts between the Sufi orders and the Yan Izala-movement. See 
further Loimeier & Reichmuth 1993, 48; Loimeier 1997. 

111 See further my discussion in Chapter VIII as well as Abun-Nasr 1993, 217, 222. 

112 See Ifeka 2000. For further details on the introduction of sharfa in Nigeria, see "In God's 
Name", Africa Confidential, 41:5, March 2000. 

113 Oral information. This question will be investigated in future research by the author. 


Zakat and the Question of Social Welfare 

hand, that state supervision so far has been absent and zakat has been a 
voluntary and private matter, and, on the other hand, an attempt by the 
governments to implement what they perceive as an Islamic policy. 114 The 
expectations are high, as QadI Marafa in Bauchi explained in an interview: 
"Sharia would wipe out begging and all forms of destitutions as a welfarist 
system would be created where zakat would be collected to help the 
needy." 115 

A similar situation in terms of haphazard or non-institutionalised and 
non-centralised implementation and running of social welfare institutions 
prevails among the Muslim community in Ghana. 116 However, whereas some 
Muslim scholars in Nigeria loudly demand the Islamisation of Nigerian 
society or at least the North, such demands are not made by Ghanaian 
scholars. A comparison of the two cases reveals some similarities: both states 
are officially secular, both states have been hit by economic recession (Ghana 
during the 1970s and early 1980s and again since the late 1990s, Nigeria since 
the 1980s), in both states the North is perceived as backward and 'Muslim'. 
However, there is one major difference between the Nigerian and the Gha¬ 
naian cases: whereas the Sokoto Caliphate is referred to as the glorious past 
and source of inspiration and guidance for a future Islamic society in Northern 
Nigeria, no such historical example exists for Ghana. 

Although the call for Islamisation and the establishment of an Islamic 
order is evident in many sub-Saharan African states, one could argue that, in 
terms of the establishment of an Islamic social welfare system, there exist 
several possibilities. One would be the establishment of an Islamic state, al¬ 
though this option does not look too feasible given the fact that almost all states 
are at the moment secular ones and include substantial numbers of different 
religions and conflicting political agendas. One precondition for the 
establishment of an Islamic state must be consensus among the Muslims, and 
in most cases this is not found to exist. Thus, one could argue that the 
establishment of an Islamic economy is still in the remote future. However, 
turning to the example of the local tradition of accommodation as well as the 
modern implementation of the zakat rules by Muslim NGOs, one could argue 
for an applied model to be implemented among Muslim societies in sub- 
Saharan Africa, namely that of the establishment of an Islamic order within 
the Muslim community but without the Islamisation of the state. Consensus 

114 On Kebbi state, see "Obansanjo is honest". The Neivs (Lagos) 26 April 2000, Wysiwyg:/ /85/ (printed 7 June 2001) and "Sharia: The Kebbi 
Experience", The Post Express (Lagos) 17 December 2000, 
200012180094.html (printed 7 June 2001); on Bauchi, see "Sharia: Bauchi, Gombe—the Dilemma 
of Two Sister States", The Post Express (Lagos) 14 October 2000, wysywyg://88/http:// (printed 7 June 2001) 

115 Quoted in "Sharia: Bauchi, Gombe—the Dilemma of Two Sister States"; on Borno, see 
"Borno Assembly Okays 2000 Supplementary Bill", This Day (Lagos) 8 December 2000, 
http:/ / (printed 7 June 2001). 

116 See further Weiss 2000. For an outline and discussion about the impact of Muslim NGOs in 
Accra, see Mumuni's contribution in Chapter VII. 


Holger Weiss 

among the Muslims is still needed: national zakat boards or organisations can 
only effectively be established when there is consensus among the Muslims. It 
is the task of the Muslims to look for consensus; however, it could be the task of 
researchers to identify the possibilities, impact and drawbacks of various 
existing Islamic social welfare programmes. 



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Zakat and the Question of Social Welfare 

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Is There Room for Non-Muslims in the Sudan's 
Islamic Economy? 

Endre Stiansen 


A burning issue in the debate on the Islamic state is the position of religious 
minorities. Much of the discussion has focused on constitutional issues and 
political rights. Among Muslims there are irreconcilable differences between 
two camps: orthodox proponents who argue that it is their religious duty to 
establish an Islamic state, even if it goes against the interests of religious 
minorities; and liberal opponents who reject the Islamic state because it would 
violate principles of equal rights for all citizens, including women and 
minorities. 1 An important trajectory of this debate is the nature of the Islamic 
economy, and to what extent Islamic commercial legislation should apply to 
non-Muslims. It is not, however, an issue that has received much attention. In 
fact, the legal implications for non-Muslims are largely ignored both in 
standard works on Islamic economics and more specialised studies on Islamic 
finance and banking. This lacuna in the literature can partly be seen as a 
reflection of the agenda of the different authors: primarily they have been 
concerned with, first, establishing Islamic economics as a distinct research 
field, and, second, describing an (ideal) Islamic economy. Hence their concerns 
have not been to analyse practical problems that may follow from the 
implementation of their theoretical proposals. 2 But in countries such as Iran 
(from 1979), Pakistan (from 1985), the Sudan (from 1983) and Afghanistan 
(from 1996), the Islamic economy is not just an idea since economic transactions 
are regulated by legislation inspired by the sharia. 

1 A compromise between the two positions has been proposed. Called "the Islamist modernist 
perspective", proponents recognise why "historical and religio-political factors" lead Muslims in 
a country such as the Sudan to aspire to have an Islamic constitution, but part company with 
traditionalists because they do not think this constitution should be based on the sharia as 
commonly understood. Rather, a contemporary Islamic constitution should be built on "the 
primary and fundamental message" of the Qur 3 an and the hadiths of the Meccan period, and 
not "the subsidiary and transitional" message of the Revelation after the hijra to Medina. See 
An-Na'im 1985. 

2 This is not to say that there are no studies concerned with the operation of the Islamic econ¬ 
omy, see Khan and Mirakhor 1987. Journals such as Journal of Research in Islamic Economics 
(Jeddah), Journal of Islamic Banking and Finance (Karachi), Journal of Islamic Studies, and American 
Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, regularly publish studies on different aspects of Islamic econom¬ 



Entire Stiansen 

The Sudan represents a unique case. The Salvation Regime under Gen¬ 
eral c Umar Hasan al-Bashir (in power since a military coup in June 1989) has 
been unusually keen on enforcing Islamic laws also in the economic sphere, 
and the country has a large non-Muslim minority. An examination of the 
experience of the Sudan after the sudden Islamisation in 1983, therefore, gives 
one answer to the question whether or not there is room for non-Muslims in an 
Islamic economy. Yet an analysis of this issue should not be limited to the last 
two decades; in the northern part of the country scholars, judges and statesmen 
have had to deal with the legal position of non-Muslims since Islam became 
the dominant religion in the 16th century. Moreover, the core of their 
discourse is much older since the sharia sets the framework for relations 
between Muslims and non-Muslims. Hence this paper is divided in two parts. 
The first introduces the twin concepts "Islamic economics" and "the Islamic 
economy", and briefly recounts how the Sudan moved from theory to practice 
by introducing Islamic legislation. In the second part, the emphasis is on 
traditional legal practice and the process of legal reform from Independence in 
1956 and to the present. 

It is necessary to end this introduction with a note of explanation. A 
discussion of the non-Muslims in the Sudanese Islamic economy cannot con¬ 
centrate on the production process; after all there is no distinctly Islamic way to 
grow cotton or durra, or to run a factory. Instead the focus must be on how non- 
Muslims have become subject to Islamic law, with its limitations on freedom of 
contract and prohibitions of certain economic activities, through the gradual 
expansion of the competence of the sharia. 


Islamic Economics and the Islamic Economy 

Islamic economics is a new concept. Emerging in India in the late colonial 
period, "the declared purpose of Islamic economics is to identify and establish 
an economic order that conforms to Islamic scripture and tradition", 3 but at 
first leading proponents like Sayyid Abul Ada Mawdudi were more 
concerned with issues of "identity creation and protection" than to develop the 
economics of Islamic economics. 4 This emphasis is not surprising given the 
intensity of local debates about causes for the perceived decadence of parts of 
Islamic society in India and how the Muslim community should be organised 
after independence. From the 1960s and 1970s Islamic economics has received 
increasing scholarly attention with a corresponding proliferation of studies. 
Yet the initial blending of political activism and theoretical exploration 
remains prominent since present-day academic champions of Islamic 

3 Kuran 1997, 301. 

4 Kuran 1997, 302. 


Is There Room for Non-Muslims in the Sudan's Islamic Economy? 

economics often double as activists who portray the ideal Islamic economy as 
superior to other economic systems. This attitude is, for example, expressed in 
the implied juxtaposition of homo economicus and homo islamicus —while the 
former is "incorrigibly selfish and acquisitive", the latter is "just, socially 
responsible, and altruistic". 5 It is important to note, however, that even 
scholars who are dismissive of the dominant consumer societies in North 
America, Europe and Asia, work within the neo-classical paradigm, and 
Islamic economics as a discipline (in a narrow technical sense) is therefore 
profoundly influenced by a western secular intellectual tradition. 

Islamic economics is first and foremost inspired by the Qur'an, but the 
traditions (sing, hadith) of the Prophet are also important. Economic issues are 
prominent in both sources, and commercial metaphors are often used to 
explain and illustrate general principles of Islam. 6 Contemporary scholars 
refer much less to th e fiqh literature. 7 Since the founders of the four schools of 
law were concerned with the legality of various transactions in the market 
place, this is surprising and probably related to several factors. A few can be 
suggested here. First, the formative period of Islamic law did not produce one 
code of law, and on several issues there are considerable conflicts of in¬ 
terpretation among authoritative scholars. Second, the fiqh literature is firmly 
embedded in pre-modern societies, and legal scholars must use analogy 
( qiyds ) to apply the law, as explained by the classical jurists, to every-day life in 
modern industrial and post-industrial societies. A third factor (that also holds 
true for the Qur 'an and hadiths) is that the fiqh literature does not provide a 
clear methodology for economic analysis. A consequence of the contemporary 
emphasis on the Qur 'an, and to a lesser extent the lmdlths, is that the difference 
between sunni and shia legal traditions is clouded over, and scholars from 
both traditions construct their arguments on economic issues in much the 
same way. 

Even though there is agreement that the Qur 3 an provides the framework 
for proper economic behaviour, it is not an easy text to deal with because 
many general principles are couched in language that requires interpretation. 
The prohibition of riba demonstrates this problem; witness sura Al c Umran: 

O you who believe, do not consume riba with continued redoubling and protect your¬ 
selves from God, perchance you may be blissful. 

Riba is a verbal noun meaning to grow, to increase or to get larger. The verse 
refers to the (widespread) practice at the time of the Prophet of money-lenders 
charging exorbitant interest rates which effectively trapped some borrowers 
in debt bondage. One interpretation of the verse is therefore to prohibit all 

5 Kuran 1986, 136. 

6 For a survey, see Hunwick 1999. 

7 For a brilliant example of how the legal manuals can be used to "reconstruct" Islamic com¬ 
mercial law and practice, see Udovitch 1970. 


Entire Stiansen 

forms of economic exploitation, and in particular usury. 8 Another 
interpretation is to regard the prohibition of riba as the illegality of all gains 
from money-lending, i.e. all forms of interest. 9 The two conflicting interpre¬ 
tations of the prohibition of riba have radically different consequences for the 
organisation of an economy. In the first case, there will not be a substantial 
difference between conventional economies and an economy grounded in 
Islamic principles, provided adequate safeguards have been taken against 
exploitation. In the second case, all contracts and transactions that involve 
interest must be prohibited with the result that the financial system will be 
quite different from a conventional economy which allows interest; of course, 
economic exploitation will be prohibited in the interest-free Islamic economy 

A different problem concerns what appears to be contradictions between 
different sections (or verses) in the Qur'an. For instance, in sura 9:35 it says that 
on the Day of Judgement the wealthy will be punished with the molten gold 
they have accumulated, while in sura 7:31 people are invited to wear and 
display their adornments and beautiful possessions. Clearly, a reasonable 
interpretation of the first verse is that wealth should not accumulate in private 
hands; possibly the verse can also be seen as the condemnation of unequal 
distribution of wealth within the community (the umma). On the other hand, 
the second verse seems to allow the assessment of private wealth, and by 
implication a non-egalitarian society. Although obsolete in a contemporary 
context, another example of ambiguity concerns slavery. While there is no 
doubt that slavery is permissible, slave owners are all the same encouraged to 
free their slaves. Hence, it is possible to base economic production in the 
Islamic economy on slave labour, even though it may be morally better to do 
without slaves. The legality of slavery seems to negate the general 
condemnation of exploitation. 

Despite the possibility of conflicting interpretations, a majority of the 
advocates of Islamic economics are in agreement on a set of principles; the 
most important of these may be summarised as follows: 

- private property is recognised and protected 

- all member of the community (umma) should have their basic needs 
provided for 

- production of non-legitimate ( liaram ) commodities is prohibited 

- sale of non-legitimate ( liaram ) commodities is prohibited 

- interest is prohibited. 

In addition, most contemporary scholars argue that the core of an Islamic 
system of taxation should be the collection of zakat (an alms tax paid by the rich 
for the benefit of the poor); presumably non-Muslims would not pay zakat but 

8 Rahman 1964, 26-27. 

9 In this context the technical definition of riba is "a monetary advantage without a counter- 
value which has been stipulated in favour of one of the two contracting parties in an exchange 
of two monetary values", see Schacht 1986 [1964], 145. 


Is There Room for Non-Muslims in the Sudan's Islamic Economy? 

jizya (a poll tax). Moreover, in the Islamic economy inheritance would be 
regulated according to the detailed stipulations of the Qur'an, 10 and 
production processes would be structured so as to allow Muslims to observe 
their religious obligations such as the five daily prayers as well as fasting 
during Ramadan. 

From Theory to Practice: The Sudanese Case 

In 1983, President NimayrI introduced by decree a number of laws (subse¬ 
quently somewhat incorrectly known as the September Laws) designed to 
make the judicature of the Sudan conform to Islamic principles. While the 
scope of the legal reform was extremely wide, 11 only one section in the new 
Civil Procedure Act dealt with the financial sector; it simply stated: 

Section 110: No decree of interest 

The court shall under no circumstance whatsoever make a decree ordering payment of 
interest on the principle sum adjudged. 12 

Since the letter of the law did not explicitly rule out the continuation of interest 
payments (a borrower had to take his case to court for the law to be enforced), 
banking continued as usual, and it was only through additional provisions in 
the Civil Transactions Act (1984), and circulars from the Bank of Sudan, that 
existing loopholes were closed. 13 In December 1984 banks were instructed to 
use Islamic forms of finance, with the result that bank lending began to take 
the form of musharaka, mudaraba and murabaha contracts; correspondingly, 
interest bearing deposit accounts were converted into investment accounts, 14 
savings accounts, 15 and current accounts. 16 Enforcement of the interest ban, 
however, was careless, and in 1986 the democratically elected government 
allowed lending at fixed rates as compensation for inflation (see below for a 
discussion). Effectively this gave the public a choice between interest and non¬ 
interest banking. After the 1989 coup, the new Islamist government banned 

10 A very large part of what can be considered QuPanic legislation addresses issues relating to 

11 Both substantive and procedural laws were affected, as well as criminal and civil legislation. 
For a survey of the legal issues, see Gordon 1985; and for a survey of the broader context, see 
Warburg 1990. 

12 Arabic text: " c adam al-hakm bi-l-fa^ida. La tahakum al-mahkama bi-l-fa^ida bi-dyyi hdl min al- 
"ahwdl". The English wording of the subheading, which is rendered as published by the Justice 
Department, does not really convey the meaning of the Arabic; a better translation would be 
"no enforcement of interest" or "no judgements in support of interest". 

13 For a more elaborate discussion of this subject, see Stiansen, 1999. 

14 Money on account was used for targeted investments and could therefore make profits or 

15 Guaranteed accounts that would make profits in accordance with the bank's annual 
average return on capital, if any. 

16 Usually these accounts were guaranteed but would not earn a return even if the bank was 


Entire Stiansen 

compensatory rates, and increasingly in the 1990s the Bank of Sudan, as 
regulator of the financial sector, has attempted to enforce the interest ban. 

Two considerations carry equal weight in the choice of contracts in the 
contemporary Sudan: contracts have to conform to Islamic principles, and they 
have to meet pragmatic needs in concrete situations. Conventional contracts 
regulating wage labour, leasing and renting / letting are all compatible with 
Islamic law; financial instruments such as the bill of exchange ( suftaja ), cheque 
(hawala or sakk) and draft (hawala) are also legal. The need for distinct "Islamic 
contracts" is therefore largely restricted to situations where merchants and 
others in a different legal environment would have applied for loans. 17 

To avoid illegal interest payments, bankers can use the three basic con¬ 
tracts (or financial techniques) mentioned above: mushdraka, mudaraba and 
murdbaha. The first is similar to a simple partnership or joint stock company; 
the second is equivalent to the commenda (sleeping partnership) as known in 
European commercial law; and the third is a re-sale with a mark-up. Of the 
three models, the first two are preferable because the financier (rabb al-mdl, 
"owner of the money") may make, or lose, money on his investment ac¬ 
cording to the success of the venture; hence he has no guarantee of a positive 
return on the investment. The third model is more questionable. Not only can 
the mark-up be calculated as if it were a running interest rate, to be legal the 
financier has to take physical possession of the item purchased on behalf of the 
customer, and this requirement has habitually been ignored by merchants 
and bankers in the Sudan. On the issue of the formulation of murdbaha 
contracts, it should be noted that one interpretation of the law gives the 
customer, prior to taking actual possession of the commodity, the right to walk 
away from his commitment to the bank even if it has made the purchase. 
Initially this interpretation represented a marginal position, but after 1993 it 
has been enforced by the Bank of Sudan. 

Agricultural finance represents a special challenge in an Islamic finance 
context, and particularly so in the Sudan because seasonal production, above 
all in the non-irrigated sector, depends on weather conditions. Because of the 
level of risk, financial institutions are reluctant to invest on the basis of part¬ 
nerships or other profit-and-loss-sharing (PLS) models, and in general 
hedging (in a future market for agricultural commodities) is illegal because 
Islamic law "prohibits the exchange of abstract property for abstract prop¬ 
erty." 18 Yet the repertoire of Islamic contracts includes some that are well 
suited for the needs of agriculture. A salam contract is the sale of a fixed volume 
of next season's crop against immediate payment in cash; the contract also 
specifies quality as well as place and date of delivery. The difference between 
the salam price (when the contract was signed) and the market price (after 
harvest) represents the financier's profit or loss. ( Salam contracts resemble 

17 An interest-free loan is known as qard hassan, but it is regarded as an act of charity and 
therefore not important in the present context. 

18 Vogel and Hayes 1998, 116. Future contracts are commonly used to hedge against financial 


Is There Room for Non-Muslims in the Sudan's Islamic Economy? 

shayl contracts that for centuries have featured in the Sudan's economy.) 19 A 
muqawala is another contract which can be used to finance the production 
process. The model is quite simple. A bank agrees to execute a certain task for 
a farmer (for instance to clear land or plant seeds) against payment in 
instalments or in a lump sum after a delay. 20 Murabahas are also extensively 
used in agriculture because they are easy to administer, and in cases where 
the contract is used to finance capital investments, for instance tractors, the 
bank can retain title to the item in question until it has been paid in full. This 
reduces the element of risk quite substantially. These factors explain why 
murabaha contracts, in June 2000, accounted for roughly one half of all formal 
finance to the agricultural sector. 21 The relative share of the different contracts 
does not reflect the government's preference, which favours the Islamically 
sound salam and musharaka contracts. 

The Sudan's experience with Islamic financial legislation is both complex 
and controversial. On the one hand, there is now ample evidence to 
demonstrate that Islamic financial techniques are sufficiently flexible to ac¬ 
commodate the requirements of a multiplicity of interests in a diverse econ¬ 
omy. In some cases, for instance development finance, partnership finance 
may even be more suited to the needs of farmers or budding entrepreneurs 
than conventional interest-based finance. 22 And because of the use of Islamic 
legal terminology, it is also possible to argue that the changes introduced in 
1983 have gone some way to remove the sense of alienation conservative 
Muslims felt towards modern financial institutions. On the other hand, there 
does not seem to be evidence to suggest that the introduction of Islamic laws 
mitigated the element of moral hazard in financial transactions, since many 
banks have lost large amounts because of fraudulent behaviour by customers. 
It is also a fact that many bankers and bank customers find the Islamic models 
and techniques cumbersome when compared with conventional interest- 
based banking. At a different level, the banks have been criticised for failing 
to meet the moral and ethical standards of Islam when they take legal 
measures to enforce contracts. Salam finance is one case in point. 

When introduced in advance of the agricultural season 1990/91, salam 
contracts were meant to serve two purposes: provide banks with a bona fide 
Islamic financial technique for agricultural investment, and facilitate more 
private investments in the agricultural sector. Not least because of a change in 
the Government's credit policy, the early 1990s saw a great increase in the 
amount of formal finance that went to agriculture. Annual production of food 
crops appears to have increased, and banks reported high returns on their 

19 For a discussion, see Stiansen 1998, 67 including footnote 14. 

20 Perhaps contrary to what could be expected, the prohibition of riba is generally not under¬ 
stood to mean that banks cannot charge more in cases of deferred payment, and hence the law 
recognises a time value for money. 

21 Bank of Sudan, Statistics Department, June 2000. 

22 An argument in favour of this view can be found in Khan 1994; see also Ali 1990; see also 
Khaleefa and Ibrahim s.a. 


Entire Stiansen 

investments. 23 That high profit margins only benefited the banks caused 
resentment among farmers. To reduce tensions, the Bank of Sudan proposed 
that scdcim contracts should include a kind of PLS clause (called izalat al-ghubn, 
the removal of injustice), which effectively would limit a bank's profit to not 
more than one third of the salam price. 24 The introduction of the clause was 
motivated by references to general Islamic principles and opinions of legal- 
religious scholars. Only government owned banks included this PLS clause, 
and in any case it did not have much impact because of a change in economic 

Towards the end of the decade Sudanese agriculture entered a period of 
crisis and farmers began to default in large numbers. As a consequence banks 
suffered heavy losses, and some lost more than 50 per cent of their 
investments in agriculture. Farmers who were unable to meet their obliga¬ 
tions were taken to court and thousands ended up in jail. Others left their land 
or tenancies. The scale of the repercussions caused deep resentment in affected 
rural communities. Because of their negative experience, farmers compared 
salam (and to a lesser extent other Islamic contracts) unfavourably with both 
conventional interest loans and traditional shayl finance. Many bankers 
shared these sentiments. Bank of Sudan statistics reflect the widespread 
misgivings. In 1992, the year after the contract had been introduced, salam 
contracts accounted for one half of total investments in agriculture, and around 
one fifth of the total volume of all formal investments in the different sectors of 
the economy. By the end of the decade, salam finance made up one fifth of 
formal investments in agriculture, and its relative share of total finance to all 
sectors had fallen sharply to one twentieth or 5 per cent 25 

To conclude this section, the question can be asked whether or not the 
introduction of Islamic legislation led to substantial changes in the financial 
sector. The answer must be a qualified no. For instance, after 1983 banks were 
slow to change their lending policies, and when the government became 
more diligent in forcing the merchant community to use Islamic methods of 
finance the banks responded by offering "loans" disguised as murabaha 
contracts. While such contracts may have conformed to the letter of the law, 
they did certainly not conform to its spirit since banks as a rule took measures 
to reduce the element of real risk to a minimum, and profit margins were 
calculated on the same basis as interest. The emphasis on murabaha contracts 
continued the practice of short-term lending for import/export trade that has 

23 Elhiraika 1996, 390^02. 

24 Briefly stated, the central bank's proposal had two elements. 1. If the sale price (xl) of the 
produce bought with a salam contract ended up being more than the salam price plus one 
third (xl+33.3%=yl), the difference (i.e. yl-xl) should be paid by the purchaser to the farmer. 
2. If the sale price (x2) was less than the salam price minus one third (x2-33%=y2), the farmer 
should return the difference (x2-y2) to the purchaser. For more details, see Kevane and 
Stiansen [forthcoming], 

25 Bank of Sudan, Annual Reports 1992-1999, Bank of Sudan Statistics Department, June 2000. 
(The Annual Reports do not always break down the figures for the relative share of the 
different contract forms in the various sectors of the economy, but the general trend is quite 


Is There Room for Non-Muslims in the Sudan's Islamic Economy? 

dominated the Sudanese financial sector since the introduction of private 
commercial banks in the Condominium period (1898-1956). At the same time, 
it is clear that the present government's determination to change the system is 
having an impact. During the 1990s, the share of murabaha finance has fallen 
from more than two thirds of the total volume of finance at the beginning of 
the decade to less than one half at the end. 26 Remarkably in the figures from 
June 2000 the relative shares for murabaha and musharaka contracts are roughly 
the same, around 35 per cent of the total. 27 Even though there is some 
uncertainty connected with these figures ("other contracts" accounted for 10 
per cent in 1998 and 1999, and 24 per cent in June 2000), 28 this does indicate a 
willingness by banks to form partnerships with merchants, and if the trend 
continues it will mean a major shift towards long-term equity finance as 
opposed to short-term trade finance. 


Non-Muslims in Islamic Societies to ca. 1900 

Islam recognises and protects religious minorities. In some ways, it can even 
be argued that religious minorities have been indispensable to Muslim 
societies since traditionally they carried out roles and functions that the 
Muslims—by law or convention—avoided. Examples are the Armenian and 
Jewish moneylenders in the Ottoman Empire, the Coptic accountants in 
Egypt, and the so-called Levantine traders in contemporary Islamic West 
Africa. The riverain Sudan in the 19th century was no exception. Copts held 
key offices in the Egyptian administration and foreign entrepreneurs im¬ 
ported wine and spirits from Europe—one enterprising German even set up a 
distillery in Khartoum. 

In classical times non-Muslims obtained permission to stay in Dar al- 
Islam through a pledge of security ( aman ) or by virtue of treaty ( dhimma ). 29 
Amans were of two kinds. The Imam of the community issued an official aman 
to non-Muslims as part of peace treaties or truces. A pledge of this kind lasted 
for no more than one year, and a mustd’min (the benefactor of the aman) had to 
pay an agreed amount in exchange for living without fear of harassment. Any 
Muslim adult could give an unofficial aman to a non-Muslim, and there was no 
set procedure to follow. Amans might be withdrawn if the beneficiary did 
anything the ruler considered as "harmful to the interest of Islam". 
Musta :i mins were not permitted to conduct business practices prohibited by 

26 Bank of Sudan, Annual Reports 1992-1999. 

27 Bank of Sudan, Statistics Department, June 2000. 

28 As indicated, muqawalas are not very different from murabahas, and the official figures do 
not list such contracts in a special category. It is therefore quite possible that bankers and others 
have again made a superficial change in order to comply with government policy. 

29 Khadduri 1955, 361. 


Entire Stiansen 

Islam, such as trading liquor or pork. Similarly they could not, at least 
officially, lend money at interest (usury contracts). Khadduri writes "the non- 
Muslim who entered the world of Islam without an amdn, or was unable to 
secure one, [...] was killed unless he adopted Islam." Whether actual practice 
was equally severe is another question, and the same author concedes that the 
Shafi'i school "permitted" a musta°amin "a period of four months to leave the 
Islamic State, pay the jizya as a dhimmi, or adopt Islam". 30 

Dhimma treaties (a benefactor of such a contract is a dhimmi) regulated the 
position of permanent non-Muslim communities in Islamic societies until the 
legal reforms of the nineteenth century began to take effect. 31 Through the 
dhimma, the Muslim community extended hospitality and protection to non- 
Muslim communities which enjoyed considerable autonomy since each had 
its own laws and its own leaders. Implied in the dhimma contract, however, was 
acknowledgement of the supremacy of the Muslim community and its 
leaders, and non-Muslims had to pay a distinguishing poll-tax (jizya) in 
addition to the land tax ( khardj ). It can be assumed that dhimma contracts gave 
minorities the right to regulate commercial relations according to their own 
laws, but there is little evidence to suggest that there were distinct differences 
between the applied commercial law of Muslims and that of non-Muslims. 32 In 
cases involving Muslims and non-Muslims, the standard procedure would 
have been to follow Islamic commercial law, but for the reason just stated this 
cannot have been seen as a great injustice by the non-Muslim party. The 
principles underpinning the commercial law of other religious communities 
were often compatible with those of Islamic law, and in any case local courts 
were quite pragmatic in cases dealing with commercial matters. 

The Ottoman capitulations gave the subjects of European states residing 
in the Empire the right to follow their own laws, and commercial disputes 
involving foreigners were settled in consular courts. Because of their close 
links to expatriate communities, many members of the elites of the indigenous 
non-Muslim communities acquired European citizenship and thus came 
under the protection of the capitulations. While traditional Ottoman legal 
practice differed from contemporary European law, it was by no means a static 
legal system and fundamental features of modern economies, such as taking 
of interest, were not prohibited but regulated through the imposition of 
maximum rates. Legal reform formed part of the comprehensive tanzimat 
reforms, and the new commercial code adopted in 1840 (implemented in 1850) 
was to a large extent copied from French commercial law. By being secular, 
the new law would apply to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and it was 

30 Khadduri 1955, 362. 

31 For a short essay on the legal status for the dhimma community, and practical implications for 
dhimmis, see "Dhimma", Encyclopaedia of Islam II, 227; for a longer and more negative examina¬ 
tion, see Ye'or 1985. Strictly speaking, only members of other revealed religions (i.e. Christianity 
and Judaism) could benefit from such contracts, but as Islam expanded it became common to 
extend similar treatment to other religious groups even though they were not "of the book" (ahl 

32 See Al-Qattan 1999, 429-44. 


Is There Room for Non-Muslims in the Sudan's Islamic Economy? 

administered in mixed courts by Ottoman and European judges according to 
European legal procedure. 33 The strength of the millet system, which to some 
extent was held up by European powers through their protection of religious 
minorities, prevented the legal reforms from taking full effect, and it was only 
the establishment of Ataturk's Turkish republic that realised the aim of a 
single legal system for all citizens in the former Empire. 

With regard to the two most important sultanates of pre-colonial Sudan, 
Sinnar and Darfur, 34 it is important to note that nowhere was the sharia ap¬ 
plied in its entirety. In Darfur, traditional Fur legal custom co-existed with the 
sharia, and in important respects, such as land tenure and rights of inheritance 
for women, local custom prevailed over the sharia. In Sinnar, the prominence 
of the sharia increased in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the 
move towards Islamic orthodoxy reflected the ascendancy of a new urban 
bourgeoisie which claimed Arab descent. Possibly Islamic laws were applied 
more stringently in enclaves (religious or commercial) where Muslim 
foreigners, or people who claimed foreign ancestry, lived in relative 
isolation. 35 Before the nineteenth century, very few non-Muslims came to the 
Sudan (present borders) from Egypt, the Red Sea littoral and Ethiopia, and in 
any case among foreign Muslims observance of Islamic laws cannot have 
provoked objections of a principal nature. However, it is important to re¬ 
member that immigration from the west and south in absolute numbers 
dwarfed immigration from the north and east. The majority of the people 
coming from the west would have been Muslims performing the hajj. The 
pilgrimage was definitely not the motivating factor for people coming from 
the south; and as enslaved they were subject to the sharia and the judgement 
of their masters. 

A ruling from Darfur from 1863 gives some insight into how free non- 
Muslims fitted into the legal system of pre-colonial Sudan. The case concerns 
one al-Haj Salim Hamad Abu Asba c a, a jallaba 36 who traded between Darfur, 
the Nile Valley and Upper Egypt and Ab Maslh the son of khawaja Shinuda al- 
Jawharl, an Egyptian Copt. The most important details are stated in the 
document as follows: 

[al-Hdjj Salim Hamad Abu Asba c a] had taken from the khawaja Shinuda al-Jawhari 
three hundred and twenty mahbub and gave him a tamassuk [i.e. a note] for this in the 
district of Dongola. And he promised to repay it after his return from Dar Fur. But 
before his departure from the city of Siyut he repaid the aforesaid money in the 

33 Yapp 1987,112. 

34 The Egyptian conquest of the northern riverain Sudan (including Kordofan) in 1820-1821 
brought an end to Sinnar, and Darfur remained independent until 1874 when it was 
conquered by the forces of al-Zubayr Pasha, ostensibly in the name of the Egyptian Khedive. 

35 O'Fahey 1980, 110; O'Fahey 1995, 34-35; O'Fahey 1994; O'Fahey and Spaulding 1972, 78-88; 
Spaulding 1977, 407-26. For a general study of the judicial system of pre-colonial Sudan, see al- 
Mufti 1959. 

3(1 The term "jallaba" (sing, jallab or jallabi, pi. jallaba), from the verb jalaba "to bring", was first 
used for the leaders of the caravans trading between the Sudan and Egypt, but, in the nine¬ 
teenth century, it became synonymous with "trader". 


Entire Stiansen 

presence of some people. The mu c allim Shinuda claimed that he had mislaid the shnqq 
[i.e. the note] and promised that he would tear it up when he found it. 

The note was not lost but resurfaced in the hands of Shinuda's son at the same 
time as a consignment of goods owned by al-Haj Salim arrived in the Nile 
Valley with a group of jallaba from Darfur. On the strength of the note, Ab 
Masih claimed some of al-Haj Salim's goods equal to the value of the note. The 
jallaba in charge of the goods must have protested vigorously because Ab 
Masih sent an emissary to Darfur to ascertain whether or not the money had 
been repaid. In Darfur, Salim produced three legally competent witnesses 
who testified that, indeed, he had repaid the full amount. The presiding judge 
(in the document called imam), Ahmad wad Taha, accepted their testimonies, 
and Shinuda's son was ordered to return the goods in question. The 
judgement was witnessed by twelve men, all of whom are named in the 
transcript. 37 

It seems both parties accepted that their dispute would be resolved 
according to commercial law as understood in Darfur, and internal evidence 
in the ruling suggests that court procedure followed conventions of Islamic 
law. The ruling does not say what measures the court would take if Ab Masih 
failed to abide by its ruling, and it is difficult to see how the judge could have 
any authority outside Darfur. But as mentioned it is unlikely that he would 
refuse to accept the verdict, and therefore the case resembles binding 
arbitration between two parties who together had chosen the arbitrator 
Qiakam). A Muslim represented Ab Masih in court, and the fact that the two 
parties to the case belonged to different religions does not seem to have been 
an issue. Yet, it is striking that all of the witnesses were Muslims. This may 
indicate that only Muslims could testify in a case involving a Muslim, but of 
course the explanation may simply be that no non-Muslims were available to 

Even though formally part of the Ottoman Empire after the Egyptian 
conquest in 1820, 3S it is unclear to what extent the legal reforms of the tanzimat 
period were applied in the (Egyptian) Sudan during the nineteenth century. 
Certainly there were no organised mixed courts, but the Turkiyya (1820-1885) 
was not without legal reforms. The colonial government educated a number of 
Sudanese religious scholars at al-Azhar in Cairo, and they manned new sharia 
courts that initially heard both civil and criminal cases. Yet these legal reforms 
failed to have much impact. At the end of the period, the sharia courts were 
relegated to deal with cases relating to personal status and inheritance, while 
"through a system of local councils (majalis mahalliyya) set up in 1850, general 
civil and criminal jurisdiction devolved on amateur benches of notables and 

37 Bjorkelo 1983, 305-06; an English translation of the transcript, which has been used here in a 
slightly modified form, is found on pp. 250-51. The document was photographed by Terenze 
Walz, and has also been discussed by R. S. O'Fahey (1980, 142-43). Of course, Darfur was still an 
independent state in 1863. 

38 See Stiansen 1993. 


Is There Room for Non-Muslims in the Sudan's Islamic Economy? 

merchants applying customary law." 39 In any case the government's sharia 
courts were restricted to a limited number of urban centres. There are very 
few known cases of consuls in Khartoum using their right under the 
capitulations to settle disputes between Europeans. Some consuls and 
representatives of the Roman Catholic mission intervened with the 
government to protect slaves. 

Non-Muslims lost their formal privileges during the Mahdiyya (1885- 
1898). Not only did the last vestiges of consular protection evaporate with the 
fall of Khartoum, members of the foreign community were given the choice 
between conversion to Islam or death by execution. Almost all opted for 
conversion (if only superficially) and survived. Yet from a legal point of view, 
foreigners no longer constituted a distinct community but were subject to the 
same laws as those who by free will or birth were Muslims. 

Colonial Law 

The Anglo-Egyptian conquest of the Mahdist state introduced sweeping 
judicial reforms, and the new legal system drew on precedence from British 
colonies with Muslim majorities. First and foremost, the government intro¬ 
duced secular territorial legislation and all inhabitants became subject to the 
same criminal and civil laws. Matters not covered by written laws were to be 
decided by the courts according to "justice, equity and good conscience." 40 
There was, however, one important exception to this principle since laws 
governing personal status were not formulated by the state. The Civil Justice 
Ordinance of 1900 (Section 3), the essence of which was repeated in all relevant 
subsequent legislation to 1983, set out the system: 

Where in any suit or other proceedings in a civil court any question arises regarding 
succession, inheritance, legacies, gifts, marriages, divorce, family relations or the con¬ 
stitution of [waqfs] the rule of decision shall be: 

(a) any custom applicable to the parties concerned which is not contrary to justice, 
equity and good conscience and has not been by this or any other enactment altered or 
abolished or has not been declared void by the decision of a competent court. 41 

The law did not define "custom", but the meaning was clear enough. Muslims 
became subject to the sharia, and a combination of creed and/or place of 
residence decided the personal law of non-Muslims. 

The "Mohammedan Law Courts Ordinance 1902" gave the sharia courts 
jurisdiction over: 

39 Holt, 1968, 407-408 

40 Mustafa 1970. 

41 Tier 1995, 6A.100.28. While this survey does not really cover all developments during the last 
fifteen years, it remains the best general introduction to the legal system of the Sudan. The sub¬ 
sequent pieces of legislation are the Civil Justice Ordinance (1929), the Civil Procedure Act 
(1974) and the Civil Procedure Act (1983). 


Entire Stiansen 

(a) any question regarding matrimonial relations provided that the marriage was con¬ 
cluded in accordance with Mohammedan law and the parties are all Mohammedan, 

(b) any question regarding donations inter vivos and testate and intestate succession 
between Mohammedans. 42 

The situation was slightly different for non-Muslims since they could either 
subject themselves to the "laws" of their religious community, or the "local 
law and custom" of their ethnic group. Specifically in the southern Sudan non- 
Muslim "Africans" could choose between following the laws of their own 
ethnic group and canon law if they were Christians. In addition, non-Muslims 
could take their cases to civil courts for judgement according to the prevalent 
secular law; or they could subject themselves to sharia courts which would rule 
according to Islamic law. The latter alternative was more theoretical than 
practical. 43 

The Civil Justice Ordinance created two divisions in the administration of 
civil law: the civil courts and the sharia courts. While the sharia division did 
not obtain full independence and equality before 1966, in actual fact sharia 
courts always "enjoyed complete independence in the exercise of their judicial 
functions", 44 and the Grand Qadi could in his own name issue rules and 
regulations. The Chief Justice did not try, even though he had the right to, 
whether rulings of sharia courts conformed with perceptions of "equity, justice 
and good faith". This was not the case in courts where cases were decided by 
"local law and custom". It is an interesting fact of Sudanese legal history that 
most cases have been brought before local courts and therefore tried before 
judges without formal legal training. 45 

The Anglo-Indian commercial code served as model for the commercial 
law, but subsequently the Condominium government borrowed new statutes, 
such as the Securities Act, directly from England. Officials were aware that 
some practices protected by the law—the taking of interest is the best 
example—were frowned upon by many Muslims. This led some government 
institutions to take precautionary measures. For instance, all depositors of the 
Post Office Savings Bank were obliged to sign a statement giving the bank 
permission to (a) "employ the funds deposited in any manner permitted by 
Sharia law outside of all nature of usury"; (b) "join in a lump sum the funds 
paid in by the depositor with those paid in by other depositors"; and (c) the 
account holder had the right to refuse to accept "a dividend proportional to the 
amount of his deposits". 46 There is no evidence to suggest that any other 
financial institution went to similar lengths to avoid controversy; probably 

42 Quoted from Khalil 1971, 628. 

43 Tier 1990, 614. 

44 Khalil 1971, 630. 

45 Tier 1992, 201; Tier 1995, 6A.100.45. 

4(1 The Post Office Savings Bank Regulations, Paragraph 7. The POSB was modelled on the post 
office saving bank in the UK. 


Is There Room for Non-Muslims in the Sudan's Islamic Economy? 

there was no need as people uncomfortable with interest payments stayed 
away from the modern banks. 

Neither the importance nor impact of the legal reforms of the Condo¬ 
minium administration should be over-estimated. The point has already been 
made that most cases were settled in local courts and according to the 
conventions of the people concerned. This meant continuity of legal practice 
rather than change and innovation. Moreover, the division between state law 
and personal law remained much as before since traditionally the sharia did 
not apply in full in criminal cases. The one area where the Condominium 
government made a big difference, was the institutionalisation of Islamic law: 
the national legal code defined the competence of the Islamic law, the 
University of Khartoum (and later other universities) provided the education 
of future qadls, and the state paid for the legal hierarchy as well as the running 
costs of the courts. 

Islamisation to 1983 

The judicial system of the Sudan survived the transfer of power to the inde¬ 
pendent state with few changes. Independence did, however, bring to the fore 
conflicts which had been kept under the carpet during the Condominium. The 
nature of the constitution became one of the most contested issues. The 
Transitional Constitution, adopted 1st January 1956 (Independence Day), 
formalised a Westminster style of government, but it was (as the name 
indicated) never meant to be more than temporary. The debate on the new 
permanent constitution took many forms. In a long memorandum, Shaykh 
Hasan Muddathir, the Grand Qadi of the Sudan (i.e. the head of the sharia 
division of the judiciary), presented the Islamist position: 

The intention of a People's constitution is to lay down general principles derived from 
the practical life of such people, and to devise laws from these principles for the 
protection of rules which the individuals have been obliged to follow in accordance 
with a recognized system prevailing upon their community. 

This recognized system is the outcome of inherited beliefs, inborn customs and of 
what has been considered as good or bad by practice and modified by religion. 

In an Islamic country like the Sudan the social organization of which has been built 
upon Arab customs and Islamic ways and of which the majority are Moslems, it is es¬ 
sential that the general principles of Islam, and, consequently, the laws governing its 
people should be enacted from the principles of an Islamic constitution and in accor¬ 
dance with Islamic ideals out of which such community has been shaped. 

It is regretted that some of the present laws are, in most cases, inappropriate and 
contrary to Islamic legislations and even to the general principles of Islam. These laws 
instead of protecting the people's inherited beliefs and customs have tended to defeat 
the same. In fact they were laid down by colonists with a view of defeating the 
people's inherited creeds and sentiments. 47 

47 Shaykh Hasan Muddathir, issued "A Memorandum for the Enactment of a Sudan (sic) Con¬ 
stitution from the Principles of Islam", 1956, p. 1, quoted from Tier 1982,145M6. 


Entire Stiansen 

While there is no space in this paper for a detailed analysis of this text, a few 
points should be made. First, the shaykh puts forward a majority rights' 
argument, and he conceptualises the future Islamic constitution, with sub¬ 
sidiary legislation, as a territorial law. Second, the secular legislation already 
in place is seen as a danger to the Islamic community. Third, the legal sources 
for the new constitution, however vaguely defined, are not limited to the 
Qur'an and the sunna, or the sharia, but can include "good" customs as well. 
Fourth, the Islamic constitution should be the yardstick against which all other 
laws should be measured. Finally, the memorandum does not include 
guidelines for the legal methodology that would be required if the classical 
law and custom were to be reformulated as a modern constitution. 

The government responded to the popular debate by establishing a 
Constitutional Committee. The work of this committee reflected the call for 
"immediate and total Islamisation", as expressed in Shaykh Hasan's memo¬ 
randum, but it did not produce a draft constitution before the military took 
power in 1958. 48 Immediately the Transitional Constitution was suspended, 
and General Abboud's regime ruled on the basis of a series of constitutional 
orders, the most important of which "established the Supreme Council of the 
Armed Forces as the highest constitutional, legislative, executive and judicial 
authority in the Sudan." 49 The military regime was not, however, neutral in 
the debate on the identity of the state, but promoted Arabism and Islamism to 
the detriment of other identities. In the southern, largely non-Muslim parts of 
the country, a government decree replaced Sundays with Fridays as the 
official day of rest, and Arabic replaced English as the medium of instruction 
in secondary schools. The expulsion of several hundred (foreign) missionaries 
represented a different expression of the same overall policy. 50 

Street demonstrations with mass-support forced the military regime to 
abdicate, and the civilian politicians restored the Transitional Constitution in a 
slightly amended form. After elections, the government set up a new con¬ 
stitutional committee with the same mandate as its predecessor. Again 
whether or not the Sudan should have an Islamic constitution, and the process 
of Islamisation, dominated the debate. Particularly the Muslim Brothers, now 
led by Hasan al-Turabl, pushed for immediate and total Islamisation, but the 
larger parties in the North, the National Unionist Party (NUP) and the two 
factions of the Umma Party, shared the same objective, even if they appeared 
less radical. 

The move towards an Islamic constitution met strong resistance from 
politicians from the southern Sudan. At first, the Constitutional Committee did 
not include members from the main southern parties, probably because they 
had refused to participate in the elections, but those who eventually joined 
proposed a (secular) parliamentary republic as the system of government. 

48 An-Naim 1985, 333. 

49 Tier 1995, 6A.100.9. 

50 Niblock 1987, 224. 


Is There Room for Non-Muslims in the Sudan's Islamic Economy? 

When it became clear they had no impact on the proceedings, the Southerners 
decided to boycott the committee's work. 51 

The Constitutional Committee presented the draft constitution in January 
1968. Two articles marked the break with the secular tradition of the 
Transitional Constitution; they read: 

Any provision contained in any legislation, passed after the coming into effect of this 
constitution, which is repugnant to the principles laid down in the Kuran and Sunna, 
shall be void unless such repugnancy did exist before the coming into effect of this con¬ 
stitution. (Article 113) 

The State shall promulgate the necessary legislation to amend all the laws which are re¬ 
pugnant to any principle in the Kuran or the Sunna and shall give effect to all the 
Sharia rules not now in force. Provided that the promulgation of such legislation shall 
be phased out in the manner which the Legislator deems necessary. (Article 114) 52 

Some comments are in order. While there could be no doubt as to the direction 
of the proposed legal reform, the draft constitution fell short of "immediate 
and total Islamisation" since both the phasing out of non-Islamic laws, and the 
introduction of Islamic laws, would be gradual. The most radical element, the 
proposal which gave all sharia rules legal force, would have little direct effect 
as long as appropriate legislation was lacking. In any case, the new 
constitution was still pending before parliament when the military again took 
power in a coup. 

The new government, led by then Colonel Ja c afar NimayrI, abrogated 
the Transitional Constitution (1964), and Republican Order No. 1 vested ex¬ 
ecutive and legislative functions with the Revolutionary Command Council 
and the Council of Ministers. Legal reform constituted an important part of the 
regime's agenda. The early phase of Nimayri's rule is remembered for its 
economic and political radicalism, but the new Civil Code of October 1971 
pointed in a different direction. While radical, in important respects it incor¬ 
porated elements of the proposed Islamic constitution (1968) since courts were 
instructed to decide in accordance with the sharia in cases where there were no 
applicable provisions in the laws. (For good measure, the Code also said that 
the courts should be guided by the socialist principles of the government.) 

51 Wenyin 1987, 20; Alier 1973. 

52 Quoted from Mustafa 1970, 242. Zaki Mustafa's comprehensive survey of common law in 
the Sudan is also interesting as a piece de drconstance from the late 1960s, early 1970s. Referring to 
an article where G.A. Lutfi, a member of the Supreme Civil Court, had written (in 1967) 
"English law will no doubt continue as the main guidance for our future legal development", 
he commented "Lutfi in his final conclusion [may have been] carried a little too far by his 
enthusiasm in defending English law/' and added "[i]n fairness to him, however, one should 
stress the fact that he advocates the adaptation of the rules of English law to suit local needs 
and conditions and he bases this on the ground that those rules had already been tried and are 
therefore much easier to adapt than any others. This view is, without any doubt, the view of 
almost all Sudanese judges on the Bench, who continue up to this moment to apply rues of 
English law in preference to both rules of Islamic law and Egyptian law" (p. 237). Given later 
events, these statements by two legal authorities are quite remarkable for their lack of 
predictive power. The article by Lutfi referred to by Zaki is "The Future of the English Law in 
the Sudan", Sudan Law Journal Review, 1967. 


Entire Stiansen 

This made the sharia the "locus standi in the corpus juris of the Sudan/' 53 and it 
marked a major new departure because the sharia obtained competence 
outside the personal law of Muslims. 54 Previously, issues not covered by 
enacted laws—according to Muhammad Khalil, the doyen of Sudanese legal 
scholars—"the greater part of the day-to-day business of courts" was "filled in 
by the application of English common law." The authority for this practice had 
been Section 9 of the (now repealed) Civil Justice Ordinance which said "in 
cases not governed by any enactment for the time being in force, the court 
shall decide according to what it considers to be in conformity with justice, 
equity and good conscience." 55 In a comparative context, this Code belonged to 
the French legal tradition and was similar to corresponding codes in Egypt 
and Syria—the Code had even been prepared by Egyptian and Syrian jurists. 

In reality the Civil Code of 1971 had little relevance. Binding precedence 
remained a fundamental feature of legal practice in the Sudan, and in any case 
the Organisation of Laws Act of 1973 repealed the Code. Section 7 of the new 
Act "required the civil courts to decide, in the absence of legislation, according 
to the principles" established in "Sudanese judicial decisions, the principles of 
Sharia law, custom and good conscience." This closely resembled Section 4 of 
the Civil Code, but the sources of law were no longer ordered in a hierarchy. 
For more than two decades there were no reported cases of civil courts 
extending the sharia to decide cases not covered by existing legislation 56 

The (permanent) Constitution of 1973 continued the trend toward closer 
alignment between actual legislation and Islamic values. Sharia and custom 
were mentioned as the main sources of legislation, but this did not imply a 
surrender to the Islamist position. Article 16 made this quite clear: 

(a) In the Democratic Republic of the Sudan Islam is the religion and the society shall 
be guided by Islam being the religion of the majority of its people and the State shall en¬ 
deavour to express its values. 

(b) Christianity is the religion in the Democratic Republic of the Sudan, being professed 
by a large number of its citizens who are guided by Christianity and the State shall en¬ 
deavour to express its values. 37 

At least superficially this established two state religions, Islam and Christi¬ 
anity. All followers of "religions and spiritual beliefs" were promised equal 

53 Khalil 1971, 624-25. 

54 Strictly speaking this is not quite correct since as indicated above non-Muslims in matters of 
personal status could subject themselves to a sharia court, and in 1961 the Sudan 
Mohammedan Law Courts Act (Amendment) extended the competence of sharia courts to 
matrimonial cases where the female party to the conflict was “kitabiyya", i.e. a believer in one 
of the Holy Books. The Sharia Courts Act (1967) took this one step further by stating that the 
sharia courts were competent to hear matrimonial cases if one of the parties, not necessarily the 
women, believed in one of the Holy Books. 

55 Khalil 1971, 624. Emphasis added. 

56 Tier 1992, 205-06. 

57 Quoted from Tier 1982,147. 


Is There Room for Non-Muslims in the Sudan's Islamic Economy? 

treatment, and non-Muslims would continue to be governed by their own 
personal laws. Yet the constitution left important questions unresolved. To 
give but two examples. First, would Islam or Christianity prevail in cases 
where reasonable interpretations of both systems of thought produced con¬ 
flicting legal positions? Second, to what extent could there be room for con¬ 
flicting legislation outside the spheres of personal laws? The potential for 
conflict was real since the Regional Self-Government Act of 1972, incorporated 
in the constitution as an "organic law", gave the southern regional assembly 
the right to enact general legislation including laws in the "economic field", 
and even the Act itself took into account that laws promulgated by the 
National Assembly in Khartoum might be seen by people in the South as 
adversely affecting their "welfare and interests". 58 

Several coup attempts led NimayrI to broaden his support base through 
a process of national reconciliation. Commencing in 1977, this brought leading 
members of the religious parties back into government, and represented a 
definitive break with ideas that initially had prompted the May Revolution. 
The establishment of a "Committee to Revise the Laws of the Sudan so as to 
Conform with the Sharia Rules and Principles" gave new vigour to the 
Islamisation debate. Chaired by Hasan al-Turabl, the committee drafted six 
bills and produced a long list of laws and provisions it considered against 
Islamic teachings. The government only enacted one of the six bills, the zakdt 
bill; yet aspects of the un-enacted bills are directly relevant in the present 

The Consumer and Co-operative Bill proposed the prohibition of interest 
on consumer and co-operative loans. Obviously, this was motivated by the 
prohibition of riba, but the bill had the appearance of a compromise since 
banks were exempted. This lack of consistency may have been the result of a 
pragmatic concern for the Sudan's relations with the international commu¬ 
nity. 59 The proposed Sources of Judicial Decisions Bill required legislative 
provisions to be in accordance with the sharia, "unless such provisions [were] 
already interpreted or [had] been given a definitive meaning." 60 This meant 
that the sharia would apply in cases where there was an absence of 
established legal practice. If such cases surfaced, the bill proposed that the 
courts should apply analogy or consensus, the classic methodology of Islamic 
law, to reach decisions. Due regard for the common good, another key feature 
of classic Islamic jurisprudence, was also given emphasis. Remarkably, the 
Sources of Judicial Decisions Bill did not propose that the sharia should apply 
in criminal cases, but a separate bill addressed the implementation of hudud 
punishments for murder, theft, adultery, etc. The position of non-Muslims, 
with regard to laws, was dealt with by proposing a combination of exemptions 

58 Law for Regional Self-Government in the Southern Provinces (February 1972), Articles 11 
and 14. The full text of the law has been reproduced in several places including in Wondu and 
Lesch 2000,195-213. 

59 Tier 1982,149. 

60 Tier 1982,149. The bill is called Judgements (Basic Rules) Bill. 


Entire Stiansen 

on a territorial and non-territorial basis. In the case of the former, the 
exemption applied to provinces in the southern Sudan, and in the case of the 
latter the exemption was decided by religious or ethnic identity. 61 

Nimayri's Islamic Revolution 

The legal revolution of 1983-1984 is of seminal importance in the Sudan's 
post-independence history. Not only did new acts and regulations replace 
most of the legislation in place, the Sources of Judicial Decisions Act (1983) 
went beyond all previous proposals aimed at Islamisation since courts were 
required to "apply Sharia law as established by the Koran and Sunna, not 
only in the absence of legislation but also notwithstanding any legislative 
provision in another law." 62 This extended the competence of the sharia to all 
areas of the law, and the Islamic laws were territorial since they applied 
throughout the whole country. Nimayri's revolution fell short of giving the 
country an Islamic constitution, and the Permanent Constitution remained in 
force. Yet de facto the Sudan became an Islamic state, and from this perspective 
it made sense for the President to call himself al-Imam, the leader of the 
community of believers. 

Aspects of the revolution seem quite incredible. While the Sudanese 
Socialist Party, the sole legal political organisation, had unanimously en¬ 
dorsed the President's "Islamic Path", the laws were prepared by three inex¬ 
perienced lawyers, and enacted through a Provisional Republican Order 
which was confirmed by the People's Assembly after very little debate. 
Neither the Attorney General, Hasan al-Turabl, nor his office were involved 
in the drafting of the laws, even though the acts in part were based on the 
work of al-Turabi's committee from the late 1970s; al-Turabl may even have 
had some personal influence over the committee members. 63 

The Islamic laws applied to all Sudanese alike. Shortly after the intro¬ 
duction of the September laws. President NimayrI had sought to reassure 
members of religious minorities by stating: "We will not tolerate any violation 
of the non-Muslims' rights or any violation of their personal freedom or of the 
principles of justice and equity ..." 64 Subsequently the government indicated 
that some provisions, such as the prohibition of alcohol, would not be enforced 
in the southern provinces. These efforts at soothing the concerns of non- 
Muslims had little effect. Repeal of the sharia laws became a key demand for 
the (mainly southern) Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), and a 
precondition for a negotiated settlement of the civil war. Even a stalwart 
member of the Muslim Brotherhood recognised how the implementation of 

61 Tier 1982,150. 

62 Tier 1982, 208. Emphasis added. 

63 Warburg 1990, 628. 

64 Quoted from Ronen 1999, 79. 


Is There Room for Non-Muslims in the Sudan's Islamic Economy? 

the sharia "implied an inferior status for all non-Muslims." 65 This perception 
is also found in critical studies by Muslim and non-Muslim Sudanese 
academics. 66 

A popular uprising brought down Nimayri. Undoubtedly much of the 
public anger was directed against the excesses during his Islamic phase; it 
should be sufficient to mention the public outcry against the hanging of 
Mahmud Muhammad Taha, and the loathing of the emergency courts (which 
excelled in applying the hudud punishments). Against this background, it is 
remarkable that neither the Transitional Government (presided over by the 
Chief of the Army) nor the democratically elected government, led by Prime 
Minister Sadiq al-Mahdl, seriously tried to reverse Nimayri's revolution. 
Rather the former introduced an interim constitution that merely suspended 
some of the September Laws, and the latter sought to replace offensive laws 
with new laws. For instance, in September 1988 the government introduced a 
new Penal Code to replace the hudud Penal Code of 1983, but it was 
withdrawn after the second reading in Parliament. 67 In the case of Sadiq, his 
inertia is food for thought because, in a major speech immediately after the 
introduction of the so-called September Laws, he had declared them un- 
Islamic and therefore without legitimacy. 

A debate regarding the regulating of the financial sector gives some in¬ 
sight into the dilemmas Sadiq faced when he at the same time sought to dis¬ 
tance himself from the unpopular laws and defend Islamisation as such. 
Members of the merchant community as well as bankers wanted the gov¬ 
ernment to legalise lending and borrowing with interest. In principle, the 
Prime Minister agreed, but he did not go as far as proposing to change the riba 
legislation. Instead, as mentioned above, he allowed banks to charge 
compensatory rates on loans, and pay compensatory rates on deposits. But 
since the rates were calculated ex ante, they were nothing but interest rates by 
other names. The chairmen of sharia boards of the Islamic banks objected to 
what they considered a violation of the (Islamic) law, and sent a strongly 
worded protest to the Prime Minister. When defending himself, Sadiq again 
did not go to the heart of the matter, the prohibition of interest in the Civil 
Transaction Act (1983), but sought to rebut his critics by claiming to have a 
deeper understanding of the Qur 'anic prohibition of riba 68 

During the first half of 1989 several events gave evidence of how mem¬ 
bers of the public were becoming exasperated with Sadiq's dithering and the 
government's in general lacklustre performance, and the coup of 30th June 
1989 did not come as a surprise. The new military junta gave several prag¬ 
matic reasons for taking power: to end the civil war, to fight corruption, to 
reduce the influence of the sectarian parties, and to defend the integrity of the 

65 Warburg 1990, 331. 

66 An-Na'im 1992, 289; idem. 1987; Tier 1982,134; Safwat, 1989, 246. 

67 Tier 1992, 209. 

68 For a longer discussion, see Stiansen 1999,108-12. 


Entire Stiansen 

Sudanese currency which was depreciating quite rapidly against the dollar. 
Yet there was never any doubt that the real motivation was fear that the 
government would reach a compromise with the SPLM which would 
jeopardise the Islamic nature of the state. Starting before the elections in March 
1986, several groups and leading politicians from the northern Sudan had 
signed agreements with the SPLM which by implication threatened the 
survival of the sharia laws, and both the DUP and the Umma parties endorsed 
the idea of a national constitutional conference where the issue of religion and 
politics would be the main item on the agenda. Moreover, a committee 
working under the Prime Minister argued that non-Muslims were entitled to 
be exempted from the Islamic laws, and finally on the very day of the coup a 
committee constituting senior legal scholars and former politicians presented 
the government with a draft law which, if implemented, would abrogate the 
September laws. 69 

One of the first actions of the Islamist military regime was to suspend the 
1985 interim constitution. Next followed much stricter enforcement of the 
September laws. The promulgation of the regime's own constitution, adopted 
in 1998, completed the drive toward comprehensive Islamisation. However, 
the constitution does not per se claim to be an Islamic Constitution, and parts 
are couched in quite general terms. Witness some articles in the section called 
"The Guiding Principles of the State": 

Article 1 

The State of Sudan is a country of racial and cultural harmony and religious tolerance. 
Islam is the religion of the majority of the population and Christianity and traditional 
religions have a large following. 

Article 4 

God, the creator of all people, is supreme over the State and sovereignty is delegated to the 
people of [the] Sudan by succession, to be practised as worship to God, performing his 
trust, developing the homeland, and spreading justice, freedom and shura [i.e. con¬ 
sultation] in accordance with the Constitution and laws. 

Article 18 

Those working for the state and those in public life should worship God in their daily lives, 
for Muslims this is through observing the Holy Qur’an and the ways of the Prophet, and all 
people shall preserve the principles of religion and reflect this in their planning, laws, 
policies, and official work or duties in the fields of politics, economics, and social and 
cultural activities; with the end of striving towards the societal aim of justice and 
righteousness, and towards achieving the salvation of the kingdom of God. 70 

69 Wondu and Lesch 2000,11-12; Warburg 1990, 636-37. 

70 Quoted according to one of the texts found on the internet: www.sudan. net/government / 
constitutioin/english.html. (Note that one "Authorised English Version", at www.sufo.demon., differs quite considerably from the text used here.) The Arabic original can 
be found at this site: The preamble of 
the Constitution reads: "In the name of God, the creator of man and people, the granter of life 
and freedom, and the guiding legislator of all society. We, the people of Sudan, with the help of 
God, cognisant of the lessons of history, and with the help of the revolution of National Salva¬ 
tion, have made this Constitution to establish a public order, which we undertake to respect 
and protect, so help us God." 


Is There Room for Non-Muslims in the Sudan's Islamic Economy? 

Yet other parts of "Guiding Principles" section, as well as several articles in 
subsequent sections, make the distinctly Islamic frame of reference clear 
enough. The Sources of Legislation provision (Article 65) says no legislation 
should contravene Islamic law, 71 and citizens are instilled with such Muslim 
duties such as paying zakdt (Art. 10) and answering the call for jihad (Art. 35). 72 
Possibly Articles 18, 24, and 27 provide room for minorities to be governed by 
their own personal laws, and the occasional mentioning of obligations for 
Muslims only, such as abstinence from alcohol, can be interpreted along the 
same lines. But legal pluralism, even within a limited sphere of the civil law, is 
not addressed as a principle. The government has been careful not to enact the 
most brutal hudud punishments, even though they are kept on the statute 
books in the form of the Islamic Criminal Act of 1991. 

The constitution sets the framework for the national economy, and 
Paragraph 8 is the most important section. It reads: 

The State directs the growth of the national economy [and is] guided by planning on 
the basis of work, production and free market to prevent monopoly, usury [riba], 
cheating, and to ensure national self-sufficiency, abundance, blessings and the aims of 
justice among states and regions. 

The key word is riba, and it upholds the financial legislation that emanated 
from the original prohibition of interest in 1983. (Incidentally, the Civil 
Transactions Act (1983) does not use riba but fafida which is a word without 
religious connotations.) It follows that there is no freedom of contract, and all 
transactions—among Muslims as well as non-Muslims—must be in 
agreement with orthodox interpretations of Islamic law. In passing it can be 
mentioned that in the context of the constitution, it would have made much 
more sense to see riba as exploitation in general, and not interest or usury. 


Islamic laws govern the Sudanese economy. Since the same laws apply to all, 
irrespective of personal confession or domicile, the logical conclusion to the 
question posed in the title of this article is that there is no room for non- 
Muslims in the Sudanese Islamic economy. Or put differently, Muslims and 
non-Muslims alike have to follow the same laws and these have been con¬ 
structed to confirm with Islamic norms and regulations. There is neither room 

71 The full paragraph reads: "The Islamic Sharia and the national consent through voting, the 
Constitution and custom are the source of law and no law shall be enacted contrary to these 
sources, or without taking into account the nation's public opinion, the efforts of the nation's 
scientists, intellectuals and leaders." Basically the same point is made in Article 139A, which 
reads: "Sharia, then consensus of the people expressed through a referendum, the Constitution 
and custom are the sources of law." The word "then", which is translated from the Arabic 
"thumma ", indicates quite clearly a hierarchy in sources of legislation. 

72 Regarding jihad, the relevant section in the Arabic text of the constitution reads: “al-difa c c an 
al-watan wa talbiyya nadd 3 al-jihad wa-l-khidmat al-ivataniyya"; curiously in the so-called 
authorised English version this is translated as "to defend the country and respond to the call 
for national defence and national service." 


Entire Stiansen 

for dhimml communities, nor can anybody "opt out" in favour of secular laws. 
Of course, this answer to the question holds true only as long as it is answered 
with the constitution as reference point. Effectively this excludes most of the 
southern part of the country where non-Muslims form the majority. 

The present situation is not without precedence, since it resembles the 
Mahdiyya when first the Mahdi and later the Khalifa sought to impose legal 
orthodoxy on all. But governments of the pre-colonial sultanates were more 
pragmatic; after his visit to the Sinnar in 1701, the Fransiscan priest Theodora 
Krump (overlooking the fate of slaves) even wrote "this is a free city, and men 
of any nationality or faith may live in it without a single hindrance." 73 In 
important respects the Anglo-Egyptian administration of the early twentieth 
century re-established traditional legal practice (in Sinnar and Darfur) by 
limiting the competence of the orthodox sharia to certain areas of the law. The 
gradual widening of the competence of the sharia that followed Independence 
can be explained at two levels. First, as a reflection of the Muslim 
establishment's attempt to forge a link between their Islamic heritage and 
modern institutions, and second, as a determined strategy by the (Muslim) 
riverain establishment that inherited the colonial state to retain their 
hegemonic position by defining the state in their image. 74 Either way, 
Islamisation through legal reform—the preferred strategy—was doomed to 
meet strong opposition because, unlike in the past, the non-Muslim minority 
demanded to be heard. 

There is a remarkable consistency among proponents of Islamisation. 
The Grand Qadi's view on the (Islamic) constitution as expressed in the 1950s 
is repeated in the National Islamic Front's Sudan Charter from 1987, and the 
same sentiment runs through the Constitution of 1998. Another striking 
feature of the debate during the past half-century is the failure by advocates of 
Islamisation to appreciate why non-Muslim minorities oppose national 
legislation on the basis of the sharia. One example is Hasan al-Turabi's 
comment to a journalist in 1979: 

The Christians have no special law. Christ advised them to follow the Roman Law, and 
there is no reason for them to feel offended if law [i.e. the judicial system] becomes 
Islamic. According to Islam, they would anyway be granted freedom of religion, or 
education, of propagation of the faith and even some local autonomy for non-religious 
affairs. But we don't want politics and economy to be separated from religion. 7 ® 

Opposition to Islamic laws has been equally consistent. In the 1960s and 1970s, 
non-Muslim politicians challenged all attempts at Islamisation, and the Bor 
mutiny, which in 1983 started the second phase of the civil war, gained 
support because of popular resistance against Nimayri's Islamic revolution. 

73 Spaulding 1974. This is a translation of Theodoro Krump's Hoher und Fruchtbarer Palm-Baum 
des Heiligen Evangelij (Augsburg: Georg Schulter & Martin Happach, 1710). 

74 O'Fahey 1995, 32-35. 

7 ® "We have eliminated secularism/' interview with Hassan al-Turabi, The Middle East, 
September 1979. 


Is There Room for Non-Muslims in the Sudan's Islamic Economy? 

The Sudan Peoples' Liberation Army fights for a new Sudan with a secular 
constitution, and the principle of separation of state and religion is adopted in 
the Asmara Declaration, the charter of the National Democratic Alliance. 
Remarkably both Muhammad Uthman al-Mirghanl, the dominant force in 
the Khatmiyya sufi order, and Sadiq al-Mahdi, always aspiring to be the head 
of the religious as well as political manifestations of the Mahdist movement, 
signed this document when in exile. 

Finding a lasting solution to the on-going civil war depends on resolving 
the question of the identity of the state. Recent efforts at initiating meaningful 
negotiations between the Government of the Sudan and the committed 
opposition have only served to re-enforce their entrenched positions. A vision 
of a secular Sudan confronts a vision of an Islamic Sudan. 76 This does not leave 
much space for discussion, but the debate is not over. Three factors may lead to 
a softening of the Islamist position. First, the enactment of Islamic legislation 
has not solved any of the Sudan's fundamental problems, and the civil war is 
tearing the country apart. Second, there is no consensus on definitions of key 
Islamic concepts (witness the debate on riba), and the state's obedience to rigid 
definition has been accompanied by worsening living conditions for all but a 
small elite. Finally, the case for minorities' rights is strong also within the 
context of Islamic law. To have room for non-Muslims in the economy, in a 
legal sense too, will be in line with centuries of Islamic practice, and in the 
Sudan there is ample precedence for pragmatism. 



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Sidi Fredj: A Case Study of a Religious Endowment in 
Morocco under the French Protectorate 1 

Franz Kogelmann 

The terms "social justice" and "social welfare" are usually used within the 
context of western industrial nations, 2 while Muslim states are more fre¬ 
quently labelled "third world" or classified as "threshold countries". Morocco 
falls into this last category. The current constitution defines the Moroccan 
system of rule as a constitutional, democratic and social monarchy (article 1) 
and names Islam as the state religion ( al-Isldm din ad-dawla) (article 6). There is 
indeed some degree of social welfare in modern Morocco, although this is 
largely limited by the nation's circumstances. 3 State-supported social welfare 
measures such as social and health insurance are restricted to the relatively 
small circles of state and public service employees, and employees in the 
"white" (i.e. official) economy. However, workers in agriculture and in the 
"black" (i.e. unofficial) economy, both of which are important economic factors, 
fall outside this system. 4 As a result, the Kingdom of Morocco is quite far 
removed from the western idea of a welfare state, and this would appear to 
confirm the theory that there is a link between the degree of industrialisation 
and the development of a social welfare system. This theory asserts that the 
higher the degree of industrialisation, the more comprehensive the state social 
welfare. In reverse, this could mean that pre-industrial societies possess 
absolutely no social welfare system beyond a simple family-based one. 5 

If we are to believe contemporary reports, Morocco at the end of the 
nineteenth and at the beginning of the twentieth century was one of the most 
untouched and closed countries of the southern shore of the Mediterranean. 6 
The "Land of the Moors" was until 1912 still outside the direct colonial in¬ 
fluence of the European powers, thus Morocco at this time was one of the most 

1 This article is the revised form of a paper presented at the workshop "Social Justice, Social 
Welfare and Praxis in Islamic Societies in Africa", Helsinki, 23-23 April 1999. The research for 
this article was made possible by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) between 1992 
and 1997. 

2 Pinker 1980, 223. 

3 Ahmed 1988, 550-51. 

4 See further Muller 1997. 

5 On the praxis of charity in Europe before the welfare state, see Barry/Jones 1991. 

6 See further Harris [1929] 1994; Michaux-Bellaire 1920; Cunninghame Graham [1898] 1988; 
Foucauld [1888] 1999; Meakin [1901] 1986; Zabel 1911. 


Sidi Fredj: A Case Study of a Religious Endowment in Morocco 

interesting places for travellers, adventurers and compradores. Supposedly, 
such basic inventions as the wheel played little or no role in nineteenth 
century Morocco, 7 and the economy was characterised by extensive agri¬ 
culture, traditional handicrafts and rudimentary international trade. 8 The 
sphere of influence of the Sultan and his ruling apparatus was limited to a few 
towns and cities and their direct surroundings which rose up like islands from 
a sea of warring tribes. If we apply the theory quoted previously—regarding 
the direct connection between social welfare and degree of industrialisation— 
to Morocco prior to the creation of the French protectorate in 1912, we must 
admit that the Sharifian empire demonstrates conditions particularly 
unfavourable to the creation of a welfare state. 

These preliminary considerations lead us to a set of questions: Did 
Morocco have to wait to be 'blessed' with French civilisation and the resultant 
partial industrialisation before it could enjoy social welfare institutions? Is 
there really a direct causal link at all between industrialisation and social 
welfare in the case of Morocco? And does Moroccan society have a genuinely 
Islamic institution that has guaranteed at least a minimum of social justice and 

I would like to claim here that even a pre-industrial Muslim state, such as 
Morocco was before the creation of the French protectorate, possessed 
religiously-motivated welfare institutions which went beyond the limitations 
of a simply traditional family-based welfare. I will try to ratify this claim using 
the development of Islamic pious endowments in Morocco as evidence. My 
particular point of reference is Sidi Fredj in Fez, the most important and most 
traditional endowment complex in Morocco, which has devoted itself 
exclusively to social welfare activities. 

The Concept of Waqf 

The giving of alms (zakdt or sadaqa) is one of the so-called five pillars of Islam 
(i arkdn ad-dln). 9 10 In this sense, caring for the weaker members of the community 
or involvement in the spreading and the consolidation of the faith are 
traditional signs of Islamic piety. Both Qur'anic in their origins, sadaqa and 
zakdt both mean a religiously virtuous giving of alms, but while sadaqa has 
come to mean a voluntary donation to help the needy, zakdt developed into a 
tax for the poor imposed by the state on all believers and which was "very 
precisely regulated in the formulation of the sharl c a"}° Even if the collecting of 

7 Laroui 1993, 41M2; Schroeter 1988, 99, 212. 

8 On the different interpretations of the economy of Morocco before the French protectorate, 
see Mojuetan 1995, 77-105 as well as Miege 1962 and Schroeter 1988. 

9 On zakdt and sadaqa see Watt/Welch 1980, 299-306 as well as Weir, sadaqa in Encyclopaedia of 
Islam (new edition). 

10 Watt/Welch 1980, 303, translation by the author. 


Franz Kogelmann 

this tax proved inefficient and open to corruption in Islamic history 11 and has 
become obsolete in most modern Muslim states, at the end of the twentieth 
century the zakat is an obligatory tax in Pakistan, Sudan, Libya and Saudi 
Arabia. In Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia and Bangladesh the 
collection of zakat is organised by the state and regulated by law, but the 
Islamic almsgiving is voluntary. 12 In parts of the Muslim world the seminal 
thoughts of Sayyid Qutb—in his opinion zakat "is the distinctive social pillar of 
Islam" ( ar-rukn al-ijtima c l al-bariz min arkan al-islam ) 13 and it is the "purification 
of the conscience and [...] of the wealth" ( at-tahara IPd-damar zva [...] IPl-mal ) 14 — 
were spread and there has been renewed discussion of the zakat recently, and 
opposition Islamists have placed this traditional Islamic tax high on their 
agendas with a view to fighting social injustice. 15 

Pious endowments gave this ideal of religiously-motivated charity a 
lasting institutional form. Islamic endowments are known in Arabic as zvaqf 
(plural azvqdf) but in the Maghreb more commonly as hubs (plural alibds), 
and—in Marshall Hodgson's words—had already taken over the role of a 
"vehicle for financing Islam as a society" 16 from zakat in the first few hundred 
years of Islam's history. The Islamic endowment system developed thereafter 
into a phenomenon that is present in virtually all Islamic societies and which 
has a high prestige in social, religious, political, cultural and economic terms. 

It is possible to speak of a single principle underlying Islamic pious en¬ 
dowments, even if the various Islamic schools of law differ on some major 
points and, especially, the widespread distribution of the azvqdf has meant that 
they exhibit a variety of different local legal and administrative practices. 17 
The act of endowment inalienably dedicates something to a pious goal ( qurba ). 
The donor gives part or all of his property to the pious goal and specifies, 
usually in an endowment charter, the purpose of his endowment and the 
conditions of its use. The object thus endowed must serve a goal pleasing to 
God and the overwhelming majority of learned opinions agree that the 
endower has to renounce all rights to ownership in perpetuity. In this way the 
zvaqf comes under the claim of God ( haqq Allah)} 8 This religious aspect of the 
pious endowment gave the endower a comparatively high degree of 
protection from state interference, quite apart from the satisfaction of having 
done a good deed for his community of fellow believers. The eternal nature of 

11 Stillman 1975,107. 

12 See further Wippel 1996, 20, fn. 74; on zakat in Pakistan, see Nienhaus 1982,194-204. 

13 Qutb 1979,150. In his book. Social justice in Islam, he devoted the question of zakat a chapter, 
see ibid., 150-57. This book was translated into English by Shepard. 

14 Qutb 1979,151. 

15 See al-QaradawI (n.d.) (on al-QaradawI, see also; on the zakat 
conception of Ramadan, see Fregosi 2000, 212; Qutb 1994, 85-89; Almisry 1985, 67-80. 

16 Hodgson 1974,124. 

17 For the development of the theoretical framework of the legal apparatus of the pious en¬ 
dowments in Islam, see van Leeuwen 1999, 33-66. 

18 Hoexter 1995. 

Sidi Fredj: A Case Study of a Religious Endowment in Morocco 

a pious endowment means that it is of necessity also inalienable, and thus is 
excluded from free trade. 

There are many divergent opinions about what can form an Islamic en¬ 
dowment. Articles such as books for students and scholars, and weapons for 
the fight against the unbelievers are indeed donated, but it is generally prop¬ 
erty, the income from which serves the pious goal, minus maintenance and 
administration costs. It is easier to fulfil the requirement that an endowment 
should be for eternity with unmoveable goods. 

The two most well known forms of Islamic pious endowment are the 
public (waqf khairl/ c amm) and the private, family endowment (waff ahli/ 
khass/dhurri). The income from a public endowment goes directly towards a 
communal goal, whereas the income from a private endowment benefits a 
circle of people nominated by the endower. Either the endower himself or a 
representative chosen by him controls the endowment. The administrator 
comes under the authority of a Qadi on the local level and, depending on the 
degree of centralisation of the Muslim state in question, the Qadi is in turn 
subject to hierarchical control mechanisms with the ruler at the top. 

While there is widespread agreement among Islamic legal scholars that 
the goal of pious endowments is to carry out work pleasing to God, the defi¬ 
nition of qurba, one of the fundamental authorisations of the Islamic pious 
endowment, is rather broader. 19 It may be seen as relating to the financing of 
the religious infrastructure of Islam, i.e. the construction and maintenance of 
mosques, the payment of religious employees, the financing of the traditional 
Islamic education system, the encouragement of Islamic scholarship and 
culture or to the safeguarding of fundamental requirements for welfare and 
community. Thus caring for sick storks, 20 promoting the construction of the 
Hijaz-railroad 21 or even housing prostitutes in pious endowment property 22 
can be seen as demonstrating the piety of the endower. 

Pious endowments in Muslim states took on a great number of tasks that 
are commonly seen as the achievements of contemporary welfare states. 
Provision for the poor and needy, the maintenance of sanatoriums and hos¬ 
pitals and so on are seen as traditional areas of responsibility which were 
covered by awqaf. In the absence of a modern European concept of municipal 
administration of public institutions such as the operation of public baths, 
pious endowments were responsible for the fundamental interests of the 
community. Central functions such as supplying water to towns via the con¬ 
struction of aqueducts and wells are examples of the importance and social 
status of pious endowments. 23 

19 Hoexter 1987,187-89. 

20 Luccioni 1982, 98. 

21 See further Ochsenwald 1976. 

22 Bouhdiba 1985,190. 

23 Raymond 1985,155-67. 


Franz Kogelmann 

The construction and maintenance of mosques, the payment of religious 
employees or the financing of the Islamic educational system gave the en- 
dower not only high personal prestige but also allowed him to exercise in¬ 
fluence over the contents of Islamic teachings. The Islamic scholars ( c ulama 3 ), as 
the bearers and transmitters of Islamic scholarship, profited just as much from 
pious endowments as students of Islamic sciences whose fundamental 
requirements were covered by grants. 

Pious Endowments in Morocco 

Islamic pious endowments have also had a lasting effect on the lives of Mus¬ 
lims in Morocco. 24 Their flourishing, and also their decline, was closely con¬ 
nected to the changing fates of the ruling dynasties. A ruler's motivation for 
creating a climate favourable to the foundation of pious endowments could 
have many causes. As leaders of the believers (amir al-mu c minln), the Sultans 
of Morocco were of course duty-bound to ensure there was an infrastructure in 
place which allowed Muslims to carry out their religious duty. The desire to 
show piety, to satisfy a hunger for prestige or the simple thirst for power led to 
the construction of many mosques and educational establishments which 
passed the contents of Islamic scholarship from generation to generation. 

Generous endowments in the name of the community could however 
also serve as a means of consolidating and expanding political influence via 
the careful regulation of what was taught. This was the case for example 
during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries under the Banu Marin, the 
Marinid rulers. 25 Their generous endowments in the educational field laid the 
foundation for the dominance of the Mallkl school of law in Morocco. Even 
today, the institutions of higher education ( madrasa/madaris ) founded under 
the Marinid rulers remain architectural masterpieces, and in addition, they 
caused the foundation of numerous welfare-oriented pious endowments, 
including ahbas which supported Muslims in distress. 26 They had special 
houses for the elderly and hospitals ( maristanat) were built in several towns. 27 
Pious endowments for the poor (ahbas al-masakln) carried out the ritual 
circumcision of orphaned boys, gave clothing and food to the needy, paid for 
the burial of the poor and strangers, or financed the marriages of destitute 
subjects. Endowed zawaya gave shelter to traders and travellers, while the 
purpose of other pious endowments was to purchase the freedom of prisoners 
of war who had been sold into slavery. 28 

24 On the pious endowments of Morocco see Luccioni 1939 and ibid., 1982 as well as Burakba 
1996. On the Moroccan ahbas until Mawlay Ismahl (1672-1727) see Balmuqaddam 1993; on the 
Moroccan ahbas under the French protectorate see Kogelmann 1999. 

25 See further al-Mannunr 1983. 

26 On the madaris of Morocco see Peretie 1912 as well as Luccioni 1982, 79-93. 

27 Al-Mannuni 1983, 27-30. 

28 At-Tazi 1995, 57-64. 


Sidi Fredj: A Case Study of a Religious Endowment in Morocco 

The flourishing and the decline of pious endowments were dependent 
on many factors and were closely linked to the fate of the ruling dynasty. 
Regardless of whether any economic prosperity was the result of the ruler's 
personal initiative or had its origins in the domination of the Iberian penin¬ 
sula, the Sudan or other areas in the Maghreb, it always had positive effects on 
the development of pious endowments. Political stability, favourable 
conditions on and control of the trade routes were ideal conditions for en¬ 
dowments to blossom. In addition, effective administration meant that pious 
endowments were able to fulfil their social duties. 

A clear pattern can be discerned in the administration of pious endow¬ 
ments in Morocco. On account of their religious character, the main respon¬ 
sibility for the pious endowments formerly lay with the Qadi, but state re¬ 
forms even before the advent of French rule aimed to increase the control that 
the makhzan, the Moroccan government, had over the endowments. This was 
with the goal of placing them in the service of central state interests should the 
need arise. 29 

Economic decline, political unrest, the increasing involvement of Euro¬ 
pean powers in the internal politics of the country and the failure of state 
reforms towards the end of the nineteenth century all had negative effects on 
the Moroccan endowment system. 30 The administrators of pious endowments 
neglected their duties and even members of the Sultan's entourage did not 
shy away from enriching themselves at the expense of Islamic endowments. 
However, it is impossible to gain an objective picture of the state of the ahbas 
towards the end of Morocco's independence, as there are no reliable sources of 
information to make possible a quantitative analysis of the squandering of 
endowed property during this period. Power struggles, wars, natural 
catastrophes and so on have been recurring features of Morocco's history that 
have had lasting effects on pious endowments but have never yet quite 
managed to destroy this Islamic institution. 

Moroccan Endowments under French Rule 

The creation of the French protectorate in 1912 produced the foundation for 
fundamental state reforms. 31 The Treaty of Fez, which became the basis of 40 
years of protective domination, gave France carte blanche to mould the coun¬ 
try according to its ideas and requirements. The first article of the treaty gave 
the government of the French Republic the right to construct a new system on 
the basis of administrative, legal, educational, economic, financial and military 
reform "que le gouvernement frangais jugera utile d'introduire sur le 

29 Kogelmann 1999, 67-148. 

30 On the political, social and cultural development of Morocco before the establishment of the 
French protectorate see Burke 1976; Laroui 1993; al-Mannuni 1985; on the development of the 
pious endowments in the years before 1912 see Kogelmann 1999,114-44. 

31 See further Bidwell 1973; Rivet 1988. 


Franz Kogelmann 

territoire marocain." 32 At the same time, the French government committed 
itself to refraining from interfering in all questions relating to the Islamic 
religion and promised to leave all Islamic institutions, especially the pious 
endowments, under the patronage of His Sharifian Majesty the Sultan of 

Under French rule, the Moroccan endowment system changed radically 
within 15 years. Because of their religious character, the ahbas did indeed 
officially come under the sphere of control of the Muslims, but the decisive 
impulses for reform in fact came from the French administration. 33 All the 
regulations applying to the pious endowments were standardised on a na¬ 
tional basis and the entire system was placed under a modern ministerial 
bureaucracy. The administrator of an endowment was no longer responsible 
to a locally appointed Qadi but accountable to the minister in Rabat. During 
French rule, the endowment system, which had previously run in deficit and 
had hardly been able to maintain its own property at the start of the twentieth 
century, let alone fulfil its welfare obligations, grew into an organisation run 
on commercial principles which constructed entire quarters of Casablanca, 
Meknes or Rabat. 34 The continually rising annual returns evidenced a huge 
increase in efficiency and this caused even the religious establishment to 
forget—at least for about twenty years—that control over the pious en¬ 
dowments was no longer in Muslim hands but those of French functionaries. 35 

The modern endowment system in Morocco largely concentrates on the 
preservation and financing of the religious infrastructure. The maintenance of 
mosques or the support of Islamic scholarship are certainly goals pleasing to 
God, but can be seen only indirectly as social welfare activities. 36 However, 
the Moroccan endowment system includes many ahbas that are exclusively 
welfare-oriented, and under French rule, the pious endowments for the 
maristan Sidi Fredj, known as ahbas al-maristan, were the most important and 
rich in tradition of this kind. 

Maristanat, originally a term for hospital derived from the Persian, 
have a long tradition in Morocco. Whilst the physician and philosopher Ibn 
Rushd, known in Europe today as Averroes, practised in the maristan in 
Marrakech in the twelfth century, the few remaining maristanat were largely 
in a state of decline at the beginning of the twentieth century. Worthy of 

32 Bulletin Officiel, Vol. 1,1, p. 1. 

33 Kogelmann 1999,149-298. 

34 Stober 1986, 71-77. 

35 This is the impression one gets from the official pronouncements of the leading c ulamd D see 
Compte-rendu de la session du Conseil superieur des Habous tenue du 6 au 10 Novembre 1915 an Dar 
Elmakhzen a Rabat of 25 November 1915, in MAE-ADN CD 510; and Gaillard 1915 as well as 
Wizarat (n.d.). 

36 On social welfare and charity of Islamic endowments in general see Hoexter 1987, on philan¬ 
thropic Islamic endowments before the modern era see Arjomand 1998 and in the 
contemporary Islamic world see Kozlowski 1998. 

37 See further Dunlop/Colin/Sehsuvaroglu, bhndristan, in Encyclopaedia of Islam (new edition). 


Sidi Fredj: A Case Study of a Religious Endowment in Morocco 

mention in this context are, apart from the maristan Sidi Fredj in Fez, the 
maristan Sidi Ben c Ashir in Sale and the maristan Si Muhammad al-Ghazi in 

The maristan Sidi Fredj was originally a fully-equipped hospital main¬ 
tained by pious endowments. However it was already in a state of decline in 
the sixteenth century when Leo Africanus worked there as a secretary ( c adl) 
during his studies. In his Description de l'Afrique, Leo describes the contem¬ 
porary conditions: 

The hospitals are impoverished and almost without means. (...) For the sick who are not 
from Fez, there is today but one hospital. There neither medicine nor care is given. The 
poor invalid has only his room, his ration and someone to take care of him until he 
should either die or be cured. In this hospital there are a few rooms reserved for luna¬ 
tics, i.e. for maniacs who throw stones or commit other misdeeds. There they are put in 
iron chains. (...) The one who is charged to give the lunatics something to eat, if he sees 
one of the agitated, bastes him hard with a stick which he takes for this usage 
constantly with him. (...) After all, this hospital does have the persons necessary: 
secretaries, nurses, wardens, cooks and others who care for the invalids. 

Leo Africanus explains this negative development by pointing to the fact that 
Moroccan Sultans had annexed the pious endowments for their war chests. 
By the end of the nineteenth century the maristan Sidi Fredj existed solely as a 
sanatorium for the mentally ill. Even if medical treatment by a doctor was no 
longer assured even in Leo Africanus' time, one curiosity did survive until the 
beginning of the twentieth century; a pious endowment provided for a 
weekly concert for the inmates as a kind of forerunner of modern music 
therapy. The maristan Sidi Fredj was responsible not only for the 
accommodation and, originally at least, the medical treatment of sick people, 
but—in the words of Edward Westermarck—"a great part of the funds to 
maintain the hospital used for the treatment of lunatics at Fez 'has been 
bequeathed by the wills of various charitable testators for the express purpose 
of assisting and nursing sick cranes and storks, and of burying them when 
dead'." 42 

Not only did the ahbas al-maristan comprise endowments for medical 
purposes in the widest sense, but also included ones that were without a 
precise definition of who was to be the beneficiary, and helped the poor in 
general. The income from these endowments was used on the one hand to 
give the poor a proper burial, and on the other, to help the needy. The 
charitable aid included feeding the poor and distributing clothing at certain 
Islamic holidays and at the beginning of winter. 43 Other endowments within 

38 Luccioni 1982,96-101. 

39 l'Africain 1981 1,188, translation by the author. 

40 Ibid., 187-88. 

44 Luccioni 1953, 463. 

42 Westermarck 1926 II, 330, he cites Ali Bey, Travels in Morocco, London 1816, 74. See also 
Meakin 1986, 70 ff. 

43 Luccioni 1953, 463. 


Franz Kogelmann 

the ahbas al-maristan had specific, defined beneficiaries. The income from the 
ahbas al-maristan provided the means for survival for 500 inhabitants of the so- 
called Village of Beggars in c Arsat al-Qadi. Another endowment benefited the 
blind exclusively, and the so-called Dar al-Kitun was intended for impov¬ 
erished sharifas, i.e. the female descendants of the Prophet, on the one hand, 
and on the other for sharifas who wanted to escape their husband's authority. 44 

At the time of the French take-over, the Moroccan endowment system 
was in a condition that reflected that of the country as a whole, and Sidi Fredj 
was no exception. Its population was reduced to a handful of mentally ill 
patients in chains, imprisoned women and their wardens, and the nursing 
was limited to two pieces of bread and water a day. 45 

The reform of the endowment system in general naturally had an effect 
on the ahbas al-maristan. The administrator of the endowments became part of a 
hierarchical bureaucracy under close French supervision, and local ad¬ 
ministration was marked by precisely defined responsibilities and guide¬ 
lines. First of all, a central inventory was made of the immovable property of 
the ahbas al-maristan and the local administration was required to keep regular 
accounts. The administration was now answerable for all its activities to the 
newly-created ministry in Rabat, and the income from the endowments was to 
be paid into the central bank. Any expenses which went beyond the very 
modest limits set for local administrators had to be approved by the ministry. 
The most important goals were the upkeep of the majority of pious 
endowments and the maximisation of profit from them. 46 

The income from the Moroccan endowment system was primarily used 
to finance the religious infrastructure. In the first years of the protectorate, 
social welfare amounted to just seven per cent of the total expenditure in the 
ministry for pious endowments. Although the ahbas al-maristan spent slightly 
more than half of the budget on charitable works, this constituted about 65 per 
cent of the total expenditure on social welfare. It is rather surprising, however, 
to discover that the expenditure of the ahbas al-maristan with regard to the 
maristan Sidi Fredj itself was minimal; in 1914 it amounted to a mere one per 
cent of the total 47 

This low level of support for Sidi Fredj requires some explanation. Be¬ 
cause the care provided by the pious endowments relating to this particular 
maristan was limited to feeding the patients, expenditure was of course very 
low. Medical treatment had not been available for a long time and the 
population preferred to rely on the healing power of a holy man's baraka, the 

44 Luccioni 1982,152. 

45 Luccioni 1953, 463. On the blessing and healing power of "lunatics" in pre-modern 
Moroccan society see Westermarck 1926 I, 47-50. 

46 Kogelmann 1999,164-73, 217-31. 

47 Gaillard 1915 annexe 2; Wizarat (n.d.), 37-38. In the year 1332 h the total expenditures of the 
ministry for Islamic endowments amounted to 1,363,526.66 PH, the total amount of charity or 
social welfare expenditures ran up to 100,371.69 PH, with a share of ahbas al-maristan of 
64,178.75 PH. The amount of the hospital Sidi Fredj was only 625.18 PH. 


Sidi Fredj: A Case Study of a Religious Endowment in Morocco 

beneficent force of Sidi Fredj. 48 I believe that the key to understanding the 
situation lies here. There were no Moroccan doctors in the European sense at 
this time, but marabuts and barbers tried to deal with the afflictions of the 
Moroccan people. The nineteenth century saw a few European doctors 
working in Morocco as a colonial advance-guard, but only a tiny fraction of the 
population were able to take advantage of their treatment. After the 
protectorate had been established, France began to build up a civil and mili¬ 
tary health system. The civil health system was largely centred on urban 
areas with a high European proportion of the population and was constructed 
hierarchically in line with the political maxims for the administration of the 
protectorate. Only Europeans and the upper classes of the local population had 
access to modern hospitals and well-trained European doctors. The medical 
treatment available to Jews was adequate, but the vast majority of the Muslim 
populace remained poorly cared for. The military health system was in turn a 
means for pacifying the rural population. 49 

The primary aim of the Service de Sante was to check the endemic-epi¬ 
demic diseases which were rife among the Moroccan population and, com¬ 
pared to this monumental task, the care of a handful of the mentally ill in the 
maristanat seems of marginal significance. However, the relatively low levels 
of outlay that the pious endowments expended on hospitals exclusively for the 
mentally ill were at least partially justified when the typhus epidemic struck 
in the winter of 1914 and thousands of emaciated Muslims were concentrated 
in encampments outside the town walls. Together with the protectorate 
administration, pious endowments and prosperous Muslims ensured that the 
basic needs of the people in quarantine for food and clothing were fulfilled. 50 
So-called welfare committees ( Comites de bienfaisance musulmans ) were formed 
by prosperous Muslims to support the suffering. Many of them did not stop at 
single, isolated acts of charity but remembered their religious duty of charity 
and called for a tax for the poor to be paid by the more prosperous sections of 
Moroccan society. 

The decisive occurrence in awakening the Moroccan bourgeoisie to the 
social suffering of their religious brethren was the famine catastrophe in the 
south of the country in 1927. When Meknes was threatened by a tidal wave of 
refugees, the Pasha and the president of the local Societe indigene de bien¬ 
faisance decided to impose an extra tax on rich Muslims "pour nourrir, vetir, 
soigner les miserables." 51 From this point onwards, the Moroccan bourgeoisie 
agreed to the conversion of numerous pious endowment buildings into 
hospitals and clinics. 

Apart from converting property into hospitals, the Muslim establishment 
began to pay attention to the traditional maristanat. Although significant 

48 Luccioni 1953, 462. 

49 See further Paul 1978 as well as Rivet 1988 II, 224-41. 

50 Ibid., 236. 

51 Ibid., 239. 


Franz Kogelmann 

construction work had been undertaken by the pious endowments, the 
influence exercised by the endowments' administration over this form of 
social welfare declined continually. Muslim charitable organisations took over 
the administration of the maristdndt in Sale and Meknes after they had been 
renovated and expanded, but the ministry for pious endowment continued to 
subsidise these institutions. Only the maristan in Rabat remained under the 
aegis of the endowment administration. 52 

Time also brought improvements to the maristan Sidi Fredj. 53 These in¬ 
cluded a renovation of the buildings, an increase in the food ration and the 
introduction of minimum standards for hygiene. The number of staff was 
increased and they received training, and the patients even began to receive 
regular medical treatment. However, the centuries-old building was in con¬ 
stant need of repair and the endowment administration finally decided to start 
from scratch, and a new maristan was constructed on a different site, although 
not without the intervention of the religious establishment to smooth over 
objections from some sections of society. Built according to the latest psychiatric 
theories, the maristan Sidi Fredj was inaugurated by the prominent citizens of 
Fez in 1951. The ahbas al-maristan financed the construction and provided part 
of the running costs and, although it remained a pious endowment, the 
Direction de la Sante Publique and a committee chaired by the Pasha of Fez took 
over the running of the maristan. 


European rule of Morocco did indeed lead to industrialisation in some areas— 
although the majority of the local populace was excluded from it—but this 
economic development was not the start of social welfare for Muslims in the 
country. More to the point, Muslims witnessed changes in their traditional 
forms of social welfare, and in particular in the Islamic endowments. On the 
one hand, the pious endowments became more tightly organised and 
economically efficient, and on the other, the administrative centralisation 
process meant that this previously highly autonomous form of welfare now 
fell outside the area of responsibility of the local community. The Islamic pious 
endowments were placed within the competence of a centralised and French- 
dominated state. The 'nationalisation' of the Moroccan endowment system 
which began with the creation of the French protectorate did not lead directly 
to the nationalisation of Muslim social welfare in general. Sections of the 
Muslim population reacted to this development by founding local welfare 
organisations that were independent of Islamic pious endowments. 

52 Lucciorri 1953, 464-65. 

53 Ibid., 465-70. 


Sidi Fredj: A Case Study of a Religious Endowment in Morocco 


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Qutb, Muhammad (1994). Islam the Misundastood Religion, Lahore. 

Qutb, Sayyid (1979). al- c Addla al-ijtimd c iyya fpl-islam, al-Qahira. 

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Rivet, Daniel (1988). Lyautey et I’institution du protector at franqais au Maroc 1912-1925, Paris. 

Schroeter, Daniel J. (1988). Merchants of Essaouira. Urban society and imperialism in southwestern 
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Shepard, William E. (1996). Sayyid Qutb and Islamic Activism. A Translation and Critical Analysis of 
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Stober, Georg (1986). "Habous Public" in Marokko. Zur ivirtschaftlichen Bedeutung religioser Stift- 
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at-Taza, c Abd al-Hadi (1995). "Tauzlf al-waqf li-khidmat as-siyasa al-kharijiyya fi 3 l-Maghrib", in 
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Westermarck, Edward (1926). Ritual and Belief in Morocco, London. 

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Sufism and Social Welfare in the Sahara 

Knut S. Vik 0 r 

Sufi orders are often studied for the effects their existence and activity cause in 
their social, economic and political surroundings. 1 This is partly because of the 
research interests of those who study Muslim societies, but sometimes also 
because of the influence of an ingrained Western conception of Muslim 
religious ideas as something divorced from 'real life', developing free from 
the social context in the minds of the religious specialists. While modern 
scholars of Muslim societies may reject such 'Orientalist' notions, they often 
perpetuate the conception of the dichotomy between 'ideas' and 'real life', 
only giving primacy to the latter, as opposed to the Orientalist focus on the 
former 'world of ideals'. Reading such studies of 'real-life' Sufi orders in the 
modern world, one can therefore often be forgiven for thinking that one is 
studying commercial corporations, anti-colonial movements, or social welfare 

But when one starts reading the literature that the order spreads and the 
brethren study, one is transported into another world of piety and the search 
for an inner, religious experience; an individual aim of realising God, al¬ 
though organised in the collective form of a brotherhood. If the social and 
political surroundings of the order are mentioned at all, it is most often 
fleetingly, or woven into the pious context. From these writings, one would 
gather that the social and political activity that the order may or may not 
undertake, is a matter of little or no concern; something that is evidently not 
the case when we look at independent historical sources for what they actually 

One way of explaining this apparent difference is to deny that the re¬ 
ligious writings and the rituals undertaken by the brethren have any validity 
for the social reality (claiming, for example, that few ordinary brethren would 
have been able to read the writings of their scholarly masters). This would, 
however, be to assume that the leaders either were insincere in their pious 
writings, or that it is only by chance that a pious religious leader also heads an 
organisation for commerce, revolt or whatever. 

It would be more fruitful to try to see how the two, the pious ideals and 
the social practice, are integrated. And such a unified approach must assume 
the primacy of the pious ideals, seeing the social and political consequences as 

1 See further the contributions by Seesemann (Chapter V) and Loimeier (Chapter VI) in this 


Knut S. Viker 

results, side-effects, of the realisation of these pious ideals. Were it otherwise, 
we would have difficulty in explaining how other successful Sufi orders did 
not have social or political effects of note. 

These effects on the temporal world, which often represent an alternative 
way of realising the social ideals, are thus not the result of an ideology 
different from that of other Muslims, but from the fact and manner of the 
organisation of this ideology, and the context it happened to grow in. The truth 
of this is easily seen in the political field when we look at the differential 
history of the Tijani order in Africa, being non-political and rather pro-French 
in the Maghreb, while its dominant branch in West Africa was intensely 
political and eventually a major anti-French force. 2 3 Yet their ideology and Sufi 
content were identical, indeed al-hajj c Umar, the leader of the West African 
stat e-tarlqa, is recognised by Tijanis everywhere as one of their major 
intellectuals, and his Kitab al-Rimah is read alongside al-Tijanl's own Jawahir al- 
ma c ani? 

This does not mean that we should not look for reasons and explanations 
for the growth of particular Sufi orders in social and economic developments of 
their surroundings. Clearly for example the development of the first 
organised Sufi brotherhood in West Africa, the Qadiriya Mukhtariya around 
Sidi al-Mukhtar al-Kunti (d. 1811) was the direct result of the development of 
the Kunta as a major trading lineage in the Western Sahara from the mid¬ 
eighteenth century. 4 

The individuals who created the new and innovate structures, al-hajj 
c Umar and Sidi al-Mukhtar, were dominant people both in the social field and 
in the field of piety and of ideas. They were both saints and successful 
economic or political entrepreneurs and not, it seems, one because of the other, 
although they were able to use their stature in one area to enhance their 
position in the other. It is among such rare coincidences of an exceptional 
stature in both fields that we find the innovations in both Sufi organisation 
and socio-political relevance. 5 

How the two are articulated will vary from case to case. However, Sufi 
ideas often require the pious experience to be organised in a particular man¬ 
ner, and this organisation may either presuppose certain social or political 
circumstances, which the nascent brotherhood then strives to implement, or 
the organisation leads unwittingly to certain changes by the mere fact of its 
existence, or through the vagaries of its development. The provision of social 
welfare in the community is evidently caused by an ethic inscribed in the 
pious ideal, but is even more a direct or indirect result of how the brotherhood 
is integrated into its social environment. 

2 See further Abun-Nasr 1965, Martin 1976, 68-98, Vikor 1996a, 25-29 and Vikor 1996b. 

3 That is, the two works are normally printed together. The Jawahir carries the name of c Ali 
Harazim Barada, but was read out to and approved by Ahmad al-Tijanr, the founder of the 
order, and is considered to express his teaching. See further Radtke 1995 and Hunwick 1992. 

4 See further Batran 1979, McDougall 1986 and Vikor 2000. 

5 Vikor 1996b and Vikor 2000. 


Sufism and Social Welfare in the Sahara 

A case in point may be the Sanuslya brotherhood of the eastern Sahara, 
from the 1840s until its destruction in the 1910s and 20s. It has been studied 
more for its political and economic role than in terms of its ideas. 6 We thus do 
not yet understand if or to what degree it marks an exception, or a deviation 
from a 'normal' paradigm of Sufi ideology, or whether it is a mere con¬ 
tinuation of a quite traditional concept of Islamic mysticism. We do know, 
however, that its organisational structure was a novelty in the desert-side 
society where it settled, and led to a new social order for many of the members 
of that society. 

The founder of the order, Muhammad b. C A1I al-Sanusi, was born near 
Mustaghanim on the Algeria-Morocco border in 1787. 7 From an apparently 
prosperous and scholarly family, he went first to Fez where he studied both 
exoteric and esoteric sciences, then to Cairo and finally to Mecca, where he 
joined another Maghrebi expatriate, Ahmad b. Idris, and became his most 
devoted follower and student. 8 

Ibn Idris was widely recognised as a Sufi teacher, but did not himself 
establish any Sufi order. This is not uncommon, it is often the second gen¬ 
eration, the immediate successor of the great saint that organises his teachings 
and names the order after the patron. This happened only partly with Ibn 
Idris. His own sons did not take on the mantle of their father, and al-Sanusi 
seems originally to have played the role of follower /organiser. 9 Thus, al- 
Sanusi was appointed as Ibn Idris's representative in Mecca when the teacher, 
apparently for political reasons, was forced to move to Sabya in the Yemen. 10 
The students that al-Sanusi took care of as wakll were those of Ibn Idris, not his 
own, and when he, after the death of the master in 1837, set out towards North 
Africa to found a brotherhood, it was in his master's name, not his own. 

Thus, one might have expected the order that eventually was set up in 
Cyrenaica to become known as the Idrisiya, not the Sanusiya. Internally, it was 
always Ibn Idris's teachings that it dispensed and the wird, the distinguishing 
mark of any tariqa (Sufi Way), was that of Ibn Idris, not al-Sanusi. In ideology it 
was the Idrlsi Way. Yet the order never presented itself under this name, 
internally it called itself only the tariqa Muhammadiya, the Way of the Prophet 
Muhammad, and it was soon known to outsiders as the Sanuslya order. 11 

There are many reasons for this. One, and probably the least important, 
was that al-Sanusi was not the only successor to Ibn Idris. Another student, 
Muhammad c Uthman al-MIrghanl had already in Ibn Idris's lifetime set up a 

6 Among the most prominent of the many studies of the Sanusiya, see Shukri 1948, Evans-Prit- 
chard 1949, al-Dajjani 1967 & 1988, Ziyadeh 1958 & 1983 and Vikor 1995. 

7 On the biography of the founder, see now primarily Vikor 1995, 22-180. 

8 On Ibn Idris, primarily O'Fahey 1990, now enhanced by many articles by the same author and 
other studies on 'Idrlsi derivates' mentioned here. 

9 See overview in Sedgwick 1998, 63-104; also Karrar 1992a, 43-78 and Karrar 1992b, 42-72, 
Ibrahim 1993, 275-87 & 344-60, Bang 1996, 56-67, and Hofheinz 1996,154-95. 

10 Vikor 1995,111-18. 

11 Ibid., 143. 


Knut S. Viker 

different structure in the Sudan, which came to be known as the Khatmiya, 
and yet another student, Ibrahim al-Rashid later established a third separate 
order in the Sudan and out of Mecca- 12 More were to follow. However, at the 
time of Ibn Idris's death, the only other Way that was in process of formation 
was the Khatmiya, and this was already moving away from Ibn Idris towards 
al-MIrghanl as its focus of identity. Thus, the way lay open for al-SanusI's 
structure to become the Idrisiya. Ibrahim al-Rashid did initially follow al- 
SanusI, and was probably for a short time head of his lodge in Mecca, before he 
set out on his own. 13 And when he did so, it was apparently just because he felt 
that al-SanusI's way was becoming more than just the heritage of Ibn Idris that 
it purported to transmit. In a sense, the disappearance of al-Rashid marks the 
turning point when al-SanusI's new brotherhood in reality becomes the 
Sanuslya, and not just the students of Ibn Idris. 

A more fundamental reason for this change in identity was that al- 
Sanusl, although he always humbly deferred to Ibn Idris in spiritual stature, 
was probably his equal in scholarliness, or close to it; he certainly wrote much 
more in the Islamic sciences, and in those few works of fiqh that we find from 
Ibn Idris's hand, we are not sure whose voice we are hearing, the master's or 
the student's. 14 Thus, while the brethren were reading the prayers of Ibn Idris, 
they were studying the books of al-SanusI. 

Also, when al-Sanus! took the community from Mecca and started the 
trek to find a new home, he moved away from the regions where people knew 
or had heard much about Ibn Idris. When he was building up a social basis for 
his brotherhood by harnessing the mobilising power of sainthood, he could 
not draw on the distant awareness of his master. Consciously or not, he had to 
become the saint, the focus of mobilisation, himself. It was he who went round 
to all the major and minor tribal leaders and got them to support and sponsor 
his organisation, it was he who married into several of the leading families of 
the province, and soon it was new students recruited to him, not to Ibn Idris, 
that became the basis of his organisation (although the high council was 
dominated by fellow scholars recruited in Mecca, the older of whom had all 
met with and followed Ibn Idris). 

This history shows some of the duality mentioned above. The Sanusl 
experience had an internal, pious and ideological or religious side. This was 
dominated by Ibn Idris, always and down until today, and al-Sanus! was only 
the humble student who passed on and commented on the message. But 
independent from this, it also had an external, organisational side, inserting it 
into the reality of the Saharan desert-side. And here it was al-SanusI himself 
who had to dominate, because he was the only one that could be present to the 

12 Karrar 1992b, 55-72 & 109-10, and Sedgwick 1998, 74-92. 

13 Vikor 1995, 164-70. In the following, when not otherwise indicated, the discussion of the 
Sanuslya is based on Sufi and scholar, with reference to in particular pp. 132-217. 

14 This refers to Ibn Idris's attack on taqlid in the brief and undated Risalat al-radd, much of the 
same material can be found, almost verbatim, in al-SanusI's Iqaz al-ivasndn, but with much 
greater detail and inserted into a proper scholarly discussion. Thus it may not be clear who 
influenced whom; cf. Radtke et al. 2000, 2-3 & 81-94. 


Sufism and Social Welfare in the Sahara 

consciousness of the Bedouin society. Therefore he became both the 
transmitter and the founder of the experience that he developed. 

The Economic Role of the Sanusiya 

In the early twentieth century, the Sanusi order played an important political, 
anti-colonial role. However, before the unexpected and unprovoked French 
attack on the Bi 'r c AlalI Sanusi lodge in Kanem in 1901, 15 it had no conscious 
political role beyond that of peace-maker between the local tribes or factions. 
The most noticeable 'exoteric' role of the order in this period was economic, 
through its insertion in the trans-Saharan trade. 

When al-Sanusi left Mecca to establish his new order, he first went to 
Tripolitania and southern Tunisia before he returned and settled in 
Cyrenaica, today's eastern Libya. This region was formally under Ottoman 
rule, but they only controlled the more fertile northern territory, south of the 
Jalu oasis. 16 Beyond this, the camel-herding nomads in effect ruled them¬ 
selves. The order set up its first lodge in 1841, 17 by the death of the founder 
eighteen years later it had acquired the support of most Bedouin groups in 
Cyrenaica, and also established a number of lodges in neighbouring Tri¬ 
politania, the Fezzan in the south-west, the Egyptian oases to the east and in 
the Kufra oasis in the desert to the south. It also had lodges in the towns of the 
region, and was represented as well in Mecca, Medina and other towns of the 

In the latter half of the century, the main direction of expansion was to the 
south. It recruited both among Arab immigrants and among the Sudanic 
populations, in particular the Teda. 18 It also made some contacts further south¬ 
west, with the Kawar oasis and trading centres of the Nigerian Sahel, but did 
not make much of an impact there before the turn of the century. However, 
some traders did join the order. The same situation applied in Wadai and 
Darfur to the south-east; there was no large implantation of the order as an 
organised structure, but a number of traders joined the Sanusiya on an 
individual basis. 

That the south was of importance to the order was shown by the decision 
to move the headquarters of the order from its university centre of Jaghbub in 
Cyrenaica (which remained the scholarly centre) south to Kufra in 1895, then 
four years later to Qiru on the eastern edge of the Tibesti highlands. This latter 
was an area in which the order had only recently made contact and was only 
marginally implanted. It was however mid-way between the solid basis in 

15 Triaud 1995, 611^12. This is the main source for the Sanusi-French encounter; see also Triaud 

16 Ciammaichella 1987, 23. 

17 The al-Bayda 3 lodge, built 1841^2, some sources say only in 1843; Vikor 1995, 151 and Vikor 
1996a, 189. 

18 Triaud 1995, 437-94, and Vikor 1999, 240-49. 


Knut S. Viker 

Cyrenaica and the new regions of the south, and also within reach of the 
Fezzan and the areas further north-west. However, the French attack on their 
lodges made them reconsider their southern strategy from 1901, and in the 
following year, when the order's second leader, Muhammad al-Mahdi, died, 
Qiru was abandoned and the leadership returned to Kufra. 

At the same time as the brotherhood focused its attention on the eastern 
Saharan and sub-Saharan regions, these areas also gained increased economic 
importance. The major avenues of trans-Saharan trade had successively 
moved eastwards, and from the mid-sixteenth century, the most profitable 
trade route was through the central Sahara from Borno across Kawar and the 
Fezzan to Tripoli, carrying slaves, ivory, and later ostrich feathers in exchange 
for fabrics, arms and ammunition and other luxury goods. 19 

However, in the nineteenth century this route became more difficult be¬ 
cause of growing insecurity in the region. Borno had internal problems and 
was in conflict with its new western neighbour Sokoto, and the Teda of Tibesti 
were under increased population pressure and sought an escape by raiding 
the trans-Saharan caravans. The end of Fezzan's independence in 1811 did 
nothing to improve the situation. The last straw was when the Ottomans 
evicted the Awlad Sulayman Arabs from the Fezzan thirty years later. 20 
Forced into exile in Kanem, the Bedouins started raiding the trans-Saharan 
caravans almost on a regular basis, partly for economic gain, partly to 
establish their political supremacy over the eastern desert-side; a control that 
was largely recognised by the 1860s. 

In this troubled situation, a new trade route grew up as a successor to the 
Tripoli-Borno route. It went from Wadai in the south, across Borku (Unyanga) 
and Kufra to Jalu in Cyrenaica and then Benghazi. 21 A more unlikely route, 
because both termini were less prosperous than on the central Saharan route 
and because of the more difficult stretches of desert it traversed, this route had 
one main advantage: the Sanuslya brotherhood. Apart from the termini 
themselves—where the order was present, but only in a marginal way—the 
whole eastern route passed through territory controlled by desert peoples 
who gave their allegiance to the Sanuslya, primarily the Majabara and 
Zuwlya tribes, who were among the most devoted supporters of the order. 
The allegiance was often a formality—the brotherhood only claimed authority 
in religious affairs, not temporal ones—but it was enough to ensure peace 
between those who lived along the route. 

Thus, caravans travelling here were spared the disruptive raids of the 
central route, and the fact that the most dangerous raiders, the Awlad 
Sulayman, were among those most closely connected to the order, did not 
diminish the importance of this role. The Majabara and Zuwlya who straddled 
the route itself and previously had also raided any foolhardy traveller. 

19 Vikor 1999, 233^0. 

20 Ibid., 216-23. 

21 Cordell 1977, 21-36. 


Sufism and Social Welfare in the Sahara 

became closely involved in the effort, as traders or providers of services, and 
thus also benefited economically from the prevalence of peace. 

The presence of the order thus helped trade, and the route in one manner 
became the 'Sanusi trade route'. This has sometimes led the order to be 
described primarily as a commercial enterprise, or even a kind of 'trading 
house'. 22 That is however a misnomer and does not represent the role the 
order played. 

The order as such did not take part in the trade. To what degree indi¬ 
vidual members were traders depended on the level of relationship they had 
in the organisation. To be 'a Sanusi' could mean a number of things. The 
leadership of the order consisted of slwykhs, that is heads of the lodges and 
other local officials, who were appointed from the Sanusi headquarters and 
under their direct orders, as well as other officials in Jaghbub or Kufra, or 
travelling in the Sahara and desert on behalf of it. These were not traders, we 
know that the official emissaries stayed away from trade on their travels. 

The ordinary members of the brotherhood were people from the tribes in 
whose area the lodge was built. Many of the rituals of the order clearly had a 
communal character, and all members of the society would take part in them, 
and thus identify themselves as 'Sanusi brethren', although they otherwise 
continued their ordinary activities, as nomads, agriculturists or traders. 

In addition, some traders outside the major Sanusi areas made a point of 
'adhering' to the order, as was the case in Zinder, Wadai and Darfur. They 
could in this way link up with the international network that the order pro¬ 
vided. How far their commitment to the pious content of the Way went must of 
course be a matter of conjecture. No doubt it was to many only a symbolic 
attachment, paying lip service to the aims of the brotherhood. But there were 
Sufi structures established in these places, and for example in Zinder, the 
Sanusi community survived the collapse of the trans-Saharan trade and, in¬ 
terestingly enough, kept themselves apart from the Sanusi-led revolt against 
the French that swept through the Tuareg regions of Niger in 1916. 23 

Most of the desert regions that the order settled in lacked any form of 
state structure, Islamic or otherwise, or the outside authority was weak and 
unable to control the life of the tribes to any great extent. Here the brotherhood 
did take on social responsibilities. 

The first and foremost of those was to promote peace. This was a pre¬ 
requisite for any other activity. Without peace, the order could not fulfil any of 
its religious or pious objectives. The order clearly saw itself as having a 
'civilising mission' connected to the spread of Islamic learning and piety. This 
led them to make connections with the leading members of the tribes. They 
asked them to send their sons to the lodges for religious and temporal 
education, a demand that was normally freely accepted. Their level of inte¬ 
gration in the order beyond this would depend on how far they followed the 

22 See e.g. Ciammaichella 1987, who goes far in seeing the order mainly as a commercial entity. 

23 Triaud 1995, 826, and Vikor 1999, 268-70. 


Knut S. Viker 

teaching sessions of the shaykh and other local teachers. Some went to Jaghbub 
for further study. Thus they would have abandoned for a time their own 
economic activity, but returned to it later; the order would not have been able 
to provide for all those who started a Sanusi education. They came to identify 
with the order alongside the tribe, which remained the basic entity both 
socially and politically. 

The role of the brotherhood in promoting social peace was thus primarily 
that of a facilitator and a provider of an identity for those Bedouins who 
wished to join them. This was also their main economic role, not as inde¬ 
pendent actors in exchange, but as sponsors who developed the framework in 
which this beneficial activity could prosper. There were several elements to 
this: The order created a network of contacts across the region which could be 
also used for commercial contacts. It developed a corps of guides that could 
lead trade caravans across the desert, and the brotherhood initiated digging of 
wells along the route. 24 And the lodges of the order were built to be way 
stations for the traders; at reasonable intervals and with facilities for the 
caravans to stop over, rest and be provided for the next leg of the journey. 
Kufra, which housed the major Sanusi centre in the period, was also a market¬ 
place for the trans-Saharan trade, where traders making up the northern and 
southern legs of the trade exchanged goods. Jalu was also a market, while the 
southern centres of Qiru and Unyanga could not support such a market-place. 
The lodge also provided a more physical security, each lodge stored enough 
weaponry and ammunition to defend itself against those who might 
challenge the social peace, and the lodge was often built so it was easy to 
defend from attack. 

The lodges were the central element of Sanusi organisation. Established 
on land provided by the tribe or section that dominated in the region, they 
became the anchors that drew the various parts of the region together. The 
physical layout of the lodge followed a regular pattern. 25 It should have 
separate quarters for each of the officials; a mosque; a school for the children; a 
guest-house and a shelter for the poor and those without families; and houses 
for the servants; as well as a bakery, stables, various storehouses and a 
garden. 26 It was normally organised around a courtyard, with surrounding 
cloisters. 27 Visiting traders would keep their animals in the courtyard. There 
might be a well inside the courtyard, or just outside. Visitors, that is traders, 
thus had special quarters, and were hosted and fed by the lodge for up to three 
days. They could also leave their goods in the lodge's storehouses for a period. 

The lodge had to have enough land for the brethren and people con¬ 
nected to it to grow their own food. It must be emphasised that the lodges were 
mostly set up in oases with very little potential for agriculture, thus it would 

24 Ciammaichella 1987, 31, and Cordell 1977, 32. 

25 Vikor 1995,189-92. 

26 Al-Ashhab n.d., 28. 

27 Slousch 1906, 179-80; describing the Daryana lodge which he visited around 1905; also Insa- 
bato 1920, 72, and Ba c ayyu 1953, 56. 


Sufism and Social Welfare in the Sahara 

be wrong to consider them 'agricultural settlements', the agriculture was 
more in the nature of gardens. However, labour was an important element of 
the SanusI ideology. Stopping short of the 'labour equals prayer' attitude 
attributed to the Muridiya brotherhood, it emphasised the moral value of 
physical labour for all, al-Sanusi talked of the 'equality' of labour of the hand 
and of the mind. Even the most senior scholars of the brotherhood had to sweat 
in the gardens or, even better, in building new lodges. Al-Sanusi was keen to 
ensure that the lodges were actually built by the brethren themselves, and 
thus sought to recruit the required specialists (carpenters, blacksmiths) into 
the order. 28 

The resident brethren were asked to spend one day a week doing man¬ 
ual labour for the lodge. This, together with the less frequent input from the 
non-resident tribal members, was probably adequate for its needs. The lodge 
would also receive gifts, rather than regular tolls, from the traders who passed 
through, which helped with the upkeep. 

In those regions where the order was the only authority, they in principle 
also took a z akat tax of ten percent on the produce of the people who lived in the 
area. 29 We cannot know to what degree this tax was regularly paid by people 
who had never paid any tax before and on whom the brotherhood had no 
physical means to impose their wishes. However, what they may have 
received was theirs to dispose of, they were granted freedom from taxes by the 
Ottoman authorities. The lodges and the land they were built on were given 
the status of waqf, that is tax-exempt, and that apparently extended to any 
income the lodges had. Of course, this was just an acceptance of the Ottoman 
authorities' inability to tax the Bedouins of the hinterland. 30 

The Brotherhood and the Community 

That Sufi orders influence the social composition of tribal society is clearly 
nothing new. 31 In the early developments of Sufi structures in the Sahara, 
identification with Islamic scholarship and piety functioned as a 'symbolic 
capital' that families, sections, lineages and tribes could use to better their 
social standing. To succeed, an entity must be 'strong', that is be able to mo¬ 
bilise resources or 'capital' of various kinds. Successful entities attracted others, 
making these redefine themselves as part of the stronger factions. Weakened 
entities descended on the social ladder or disappeared as separate entities, 
strengthened ones could ascend in type from lineage to fraction to tribe, as 
they attracted others. This is also the most probable explanation for the divide 
between 'noble' or 'warrior' as against 'client' tribes, not a genealogical given, 
but the changeable result of social ascent and descent. 

28 Al-Ashhab n.d., 93, and Vikor 1995, 202. 

29 Ciammaichella 1987,17. 

30 Beyond Jalu, see above. 

31 See discussion in Vikor 2000. See also Cleaveland 1998, and McDougall 1998. 


Knut S. Viker 

In this power-play, military might and economic success were important 
elements to create a perception of power. But spiritual power was also very 
beneficial, and could be used to promote one's position. Thus 'scholarly' or 
'holy' lineages did not have the might of the 'nobles', but could still entertain 
a higher status than the mere 'freedmen'. These lineages had then used such 
'symbolic capital' 32 to halt their descent, or to promote their ascent in society. 
Further, such a position could be transformed into economic capital, as was the 
case of the Kunta, who combined trade and saintliness. 

The later Sufi organisation of the Sanusiya could play a similar role. The 
brotherhood itself came from outside, and was thus not part of the Bedouin 
social structure, at least not in the first one or two generations. But they pro¬ 
vided a strong source for symbolic capital for those who were able to draw 
benefit from it. This was clearly a reason why it was so enthusiastically wel¬ 
comed by the various tribes of the region, no-one could afford to be left outside 
if other tribes or factions could draw on the order's status by association. 

But it also affected the composition of the Bedouin social structure. In the 
nomadic society, power and success were measured in animals. Those whose 
capital diminished for one reason or another so that they could not feed their 
flock or their family, lost out and had to accept clientship to a stronger lineage 
or section. But with the arrival of the Sanusi lodges, an alternative option 
appeared, one that still entailed social degradation, but could be economically 
viable and perhaps even give the hope of a return to a better life. The 
weakened group would settle in the shadow of a lodge, from which they 
received a certain amount of land belonging to the lodge. On this they could 
grow their own food; if this turned out to be insufficient, they could even get 
food directly as hand-outs from the lodge (presumably from the zakat 
payments, where such were collected). 

This was clearly a popular alternative for those families who accepted 
being settled. The lodge also benefited from it. It was normally given a certain 
amount of land by its hosting tribe as haram land. This meant that it was 
offered to the lodge, but only as far as it could cultivate it, the rest of the land 
remained for the benefit of the donating tribe. 33 The size of this land was 
dynamic and could grow or shrink according to need or usage. Thus, by let¬ 
ting the poor members settle and grow their own food in the name of the 
order, the lodge could extend or secure its right to the donated land. 

However, not only poor people flocked to be near the lodges. Also the 
rich would want to draw from this well of spiritual power, and built houses 
around the lodge, staying there during the summer when they were not 
nomadising. 34 These houses were also built on lodge property, but were 
subject to special rules. Not owned by the tribal members, they could not be 
sold if vacated, but were, like the land itself, in the hands of the lodge. The 

32 A term loosely borrowed from Bourdieu 1977,176-83. 

33 Vikor, 1995,190-91. 

34 Al-Ashhab n.d., 29, and Albergoni and Vignet-Zunz 1975, 231. 

Sufism and Social Welfare in the Sahara 

land owned and used by the lodge could only be distributed by the shaykli, 
even though members of the donating tribe had settled on it. 

All tribes were encouraged to send their youth to a lodge for education. 
Once a young student had entered the lodge, the family could not demand his 
return until the shaykli decided that he had finished his training. 35 All male 
members of the tribe, including those who were not living near the lodge, had 
to perform two days' work for the lodge, one during the spring season and one 
during the harvest. 36 Those nomads who lived close to the lodge were also 
required to take part in the prayers, presumably only the communal Friday 

The Sanusiya and Social Relations: An Anthropological Debate 

That leads to the question of how the new SanusI establishment adapted itself 
to the social structure of the region. This has been a matter of controversy 
between two great anthropologists who both worked in the area. 

The first was E.E. Evans-Pritchard, whose The SanusI of Cyrenaica is a 
seminal work both in the study of the Sanusiya and in anthropological lit¬ 
erature as a whole. He sees it as a prime case of structuralist adaptation. The 
other is a short article by Emrys Peters, originally a lecture held in Chicago in 
1968, but only published posthumously twenty-two years later. 37 Peters did 
his fieldwork in Cyrenaica not long after Evans-Pritchard, but uses a quite 
different theoretical framework, and his article is a criticism both of Evans- 
Pritchard's theory and of the empirical findings that bolster it. As historians, 
we are less keen to intervene in the theoretical issues, as anthropology has no 
doubt long ago moved on from this debate on structuralism, but since the 
book is still considered an empirical authority on the Sanusiya and the 
Bedouin, it may be worth looking at the main elements of the dispute. 

The key point in Evans-Pritchard's understanding 38 is that the Sanusiya 
adapted to the Bedouin social structure by emphasising its neutrality, that is 
its externality, to the divides of tribal society. 39 The order sought to build its 
lodges on the borders between the major tribal factions, so as to avoid being 
connected to any of them. In this way, it could build on the traditional role of 
the holy family known in the region and work as middle-men in disputes 
between the tribes. Through this externality, the order could become a neutral 
focus of authority common to all tribes, and thus the effective leader that 
realised its leadership potential when the Italian invasion came in 1911. This 

35 Al-Ashhab n.d., 29. 

36 Rinn 1884, 508, Azzam 1920, 245, and Shukri 1948, 48. 

37 Peters 1990,10-28. 

38 Cf. summary by Peters 1990,10-16. 

39 "So much was the SanusI organisation based on the tribal system that the distribution of the 
lodges may be said to have reflected tribal segmentation, mirroring lines of cleavage between 
tribes and between tribal sections", Evans-Pritchard 1949, 71-72. 


Knut S. Viker 

quest for externality also explains the continuing moving of the headquarters 
to the south, away from the Bedouin tribes and factions that the order became 
increasingly involved in. 

Peters challenges Evans-Pritchard on one major point of fact. Evans- 
Pritchard states that the number of lodges in a region corresponds to the 
fractionness of the tribe. The large and cohesive Maghariba tribe had only one 
lodge on its land, the small but fractious Darsa tribe had nine. 40 But this does 
not, says Peters, correspond to the geographical distribution of Cyrenaican 
society. It is divided between a more fertile north with a denser and more 
cohesive population, and a south dominated by camel nomadism where 
existence is more precarious, and more factional tribes move over greater 
distances. As southern Cyrenaican society is much more fractious, Evans- 
Pritchard's theory requires there to be more SanusI centres there. But in fact, 
says Peters (using Evans-Pritchard's material), there are only four lodges in all 
of southern Cyrenaica, as opposed to more than forty in the north. 

In fact, the placement of the lodges, and of SanusI interest, did not at all 
follow genealogical segmentation, says Peters. Instead it is congruent with 
power. Rather than seeking to be 'external' to the tribal segments, the order 
sought contacts with the most powerful leaders and contracted bonds with 
them, whether or not these individuals actually were the genealogical heads 
of the tribes. Also, it was important for the lodge to have an economic basis. 
What the Sanusis did, was to wait for an invitation from at least two tribal 
leaders to establish a lodge on their land. 41 Then they went there, and the 
tribe put on as lavish a display of hospitality as they were able to. This gave 
the SanusI leaders an impression of the surplus production that the area could 
provide, and thus if it was sufficiently prosperous to support the establishment 
of a lodge. 

The motivation of the order was not to merge with the tribal society of 
Cyrenaica, says Peters, criticising Evans-Pritchard's excessive focus on this 
region. This was only a stepping stone for the 'empire' 42 that al-SanusI wanted 
to build. Exactly what kind of 'empire' Peters thinks of, is not clear, but it is not 
a political one, he emphasises the order's disdain for political contacts and its 
desire to move freely across political boundaries. 

The focus is rather on the trans-Saharan trade, the importance of which 
was clear from the beginning. Peters implies that al-SanusI, in addition to his 
religious aims (which he dismisses as 'impossible to know' and thus appar¬ 
ently to be ignored) 43 left Mecca for North Africa seeking a place to set up a 
trading network, primarily for slave trading. Intending to go home to 
Morocco, he turned back in Tunisia, not just because 'he found that' the French 

40 Evans-Pritchard 1949, 72. 

41 Peters 1990, 24. 

42 Ibid., 26. 

43 Ibid., 17. 


Sufism and Social Welfare in the Sahara 

had occupied Algeria, 44 but more importantly because he discovered the 
changes in the trans-Saharan trade route patterns. The western routes were 
declining, and in 'a place called Marzuk' [Murzuq, the capital of the Fezzan], 45 
a British consul was implementing anti-slavery measures, so al-Sanusi went 
back east, to establish a new slave trading network from Benghazi to Wadai. 

It is easy to follow Peters in his criticism of Evans-Pritchard's focus on 
Cyrenaica. Clearly, while this was a core area for the order, their interest was 
in spreading the order as widely as it could be done, not in merging with 
Cyrenaican society and becoming a 'tribe-brotherhood'. The Sanusi message 
was a universal one, but it was to be spread carefully, starting with a solid base 
among the Bedouin and then moving out from there. While it was spread both 
in the towns and settled areas, there was however clearly an intent to focus on 
tribal or nomadic peoples, hence the greater effort to move south rather than 
towards the Nile valley—mostly ignored—or to the west beyond the Fezzan. 
Thus, Peters must be right in seeing the move of the headquarters as a move 
towards a new area of dissemination rather than away from either the 
Ottomans, with whom the orders always seem to have cordial although 
sometimes distant relations, 46 or from the Cyrenaican Bedouin. 

It is also correct that there was a development in the relationship between 
the brotherhood and the tribes, in that the brotherhood 'went native'. In the 
first period, most of the lodges were led by people from outside (mostly from 
neighbouring Tripolitania), and they circulated frequently, being appointed 
to one lodge after the other as the brotherhood expanded. Later in the century, 
the pattern was rather that the shaykh of a lodge stayed put until his death, and 
was replaced by his son or near relative. This made it possible for the local 
tribe or faction to identify more closely with 'its' own lodge and shaykh, rather 
than a more generalised identification with the brotherhood at large. This is 
clearly an example of 'normalisation' of the structure, the Sanusi lodges 
became more like the standard pattern of close relations between a local 
community and 'its' holy or shaykhly family. The process of forging local 
links had already started with the founder, who shortly before his death 
insisted on marrying his two young sons into locally dominant families, to 
stabilise the authority basis of his successors. 

Thus, the order's 'externality' must not be exaggerated. But it is also clear 
that Evans-Pritchard was right in pointing out its role as middle-man and 
peace-maker, and that it had to have some level of 'otherness' or externality to 
function in this role. It certainly also exploited the pattern of holy families in 
Cyrenaica, by building its lodges close to older cjubbas of local saints. Thus, the 

44 Peters here follows French misconceptions, but a simple chronology shows that this must be 
wrong. The French took Algiers in 1830, al-Sanusi came to Tunisia in 1841. Evidently the 
Maghrebis resident in Mecca had been following the French advances closely during the 
decade, and al-Sanusi would have had time to be updated on the latest developments during 
his several months in or near Cairo on the way west. He could also easily have evaded the 
French by moving through the desert, then still outside French control. 

45 Peters 1990, 25. 

46 Vikor 1995, 208-10. 


Knut S. Viker 

first and largest lodge of al-Bayda 3 was built close to the grave of a Companion 
of the Prophet; and it was in fact located near the intersection of four major 
tribes. 47 

This need for an external anchor to ensure neutrality is of course common 
to Saharan peoples, one may point to the creation of the common 'sultan' 
(amenokal imecjcjoran) of the Air Tuareg around 1400, to 'govern', that is 
mediate between the Tuareg drum-groups, who had to come from outside and 
have a scholarly background. 48 His family probably stemmed from a 
scholarly ('holy') lineage near Timbuktu, the otherness was later strength¬ 
ened by giving him a fictional ancestry from the Istanbul sultans. Thus cer¬ 
tainly integrated in Tuareg society and himself a Tuareg, he was still 'outside'. 
The same was the case with the Sanusls, they were both 'internal' and 
'external' to the society they worked in. 

Peters' explanation of the SanusI motivation to settle in Cyrenaica be¬ 
cause of exploiting the slave trade does not hold. He claims al-Sanusi felt the 
disruption of the central trade route when he passed by Tripoli in 1840-41. But 
that disruption came only later, the turning point was the Ottoman invasion of 
the Fezzan in 1842, when the Awlad Sulayman were evicted. Before then, the 
actors must rather have expected a more orderly and prosperous future for 
that route, with the replacement of the unruly situation under the Qaramanlls 
with strict Ottoman authority. As mentioned, and as Peters agrees, the Sanusls 
did not fear Ottoman rule and worked well within their area. Also, there is no 
reason to emphasise the power of the British consul at Murzuq (where there 
were several SanusI lodges, and the Ottoman governor was a SanusI 
adherent). In fact, the slave trade over Murzuq was booming in 1840, it was 
only from the 1870s and 80s that it fell rather sharply to nothing. 49 If the 
Sanuslya thought about a commercial enterprise, they would in 1840 certainly 
have focused their attention on the Fezzan or Tripolitania, not on Cyrenaica. 

This raises the point of the Sanuslya's attitude to slaves and the slave 
trade. The sources are here quite diametrically opposed. 50 Later Arabic 
sources emphasise the Sanusls' loathing of slavery, and tell anecdotes of how 
their leaders when they came upon a caravan of slaves bought them all and 
set them free to return to their homeland. On the other hand, some French and 
other hostile observers saw the order as no more than callous slavers who built 
their wealth on other people's blood. 

The truth is of course somewhere in between. There is no doubt that the 
Sanusls shared the general Islamic moral attitude towards slavery: that it is 
deplorable and that it is an act of piety to set slaves free, but that the institution 
itself is a fact of life. Thus, the anecdotes of the Sanusls freeing black slaves and 
sending them home may well be true, even if exaggerated. It may even have 

47 Ibid., 150. 

48 Hamani 1989,138, and Vikor 1999,199-201. 

49 Lovejoy 1984, 87. 

50 Ciammaichella 1987,17-24, and Vikor 1995,188 & 211. 


Sufism and Social Welfare in the Sahara 

been a prudent prelude to later missionary work in the areas the slaves came 
from. 51 

They also did not participate in the slave trade, because they did not 
participate in trade at all, as mentioned above. However, they did promote 
trade carried out by others, and the most important commodity that was 
traded was slaves for at least the first three or four decades after the Sanusls 
came. Therefore, the order must have 'condoned' the slave trade as a legiti¬ 
mate enterprise. 

As for whether slaves were used as menial labour in the lodges, some 
sources (of French origin) indicate that this occurred in the southern Sudanic 
(Saharan and sub-Saharan) lodges, while the northern lodges only relied on 
the manual labour of the Bedouin volunteers doing their civic duty. 52 Other 
sources say that slaves acquired by the order were manumitted at once and 
settled on the land of the lodge, similarly to the poor Bedouin tribes, while 
some speak of manumission after a generation. 

Given the haphazard nature of the information, and the lack of percep¬ 
tion of distinction between actual slave, servile freedman or subaltern poor, 
one must be careful not to draw overly quick conclusions. The difference 
between north and south may simply have come from an informant equalling 
'blacks'—of whom there were evidently more in the south—with 'slaves'. The 
assumption must be that the order would try to recreate the same structure of 
integration with the surrounding community in the south as in the north, 
where the voluntary labour for the lodge was an important part of this 
integration process. Thus, it would be best for the lodge, piety apart, if they 
could draw on all layers of society in working for the lodge. 

However, we do know that an element of slavery or slave-like servility 
was a normal part of Teda and other Saharan society, in particular in agri¬ 
culture which the nomads found demeaning. 53 Thus, it cannot be excluded 
that there was in fact some usage of slaves or semi-slaves in the Sudanic 
lodges, either because the Teda refused to do the work, or simply as an ad¬ 
aptation to local social conditions. If so, it could also mean that the lodges' 
function as refuge for semi-sedentarised poor had not developed as far in the 
south as in the north (as these people could then be a source of voluntary 
labour). However, it must be remembered that the experience was much 
shorter in the south; the first lodges south of the desert only really came in the 
1880s and the 1890s, and they were all crushed by the French by 1910. 

51 Although that was probably not important, most slaves came from pagan areas, and the 
Sanusls concentrated their efforts on nominally Islamic regions in and around the Sahara, and 
they did not proselytise in polytheistic areas. 

52 Ciammaichella 1987, 23. 

53 Brandil'y 1988, 37-71, and Vikor 1999, 93-99. 


Knut S. Viker 

Piety and Social Relations 

The economic and social effects of the Sanusiya were thus the result of an 
interplay between choices made by the brotherhood and by the social actors of 
the surrounding community, choices that changed the nature of both. The 
brotherhood settled in the desert and spread in order to instil Islamic piety 
and learning in a part of the umma where this was lacking, and incidentally 
where there was no prior existence of competing Sufi orders. 

In order to promote this pious ideal they must also effect some changes in 
this society, not to the political structure, which was left in place, but through 
the decrease of war and the progress of trade. This may or may not have been 
something al-Sanusi was conscious of when he started his mission, but it 
certainly became clear to him before he got very far, thus his early insistence 
on providing services for the visiting traders in the lodges. In the context of 
promoting a pious ideal, the lodge became the central instrument, and with 
the lodge came certain economic consequences: the lodge had to survive and 
feed the non-productive activity of the scholars and the brethren. 

For this, an input from the surrounding community was needed, and 
although the evaluation of the economic prosperity of the candidate tribe for 
hosting a lodge may not have been as callous as Peters describes—I have not 
seen a case where an invitation to build a lodge was turned down—clearly the 
establishment of a lodge generally implied that the local community could 
support it (with the exception of the capital Jaghbub, which was built in an 
uninhabited and unproductive oasis, and whose foodstuff had to be imported). 

The Bedouin also used the brotherhood for their own purposes. Pri¬ 
marily, it was a provider of spiritual or symbolic capital to be used in internal 
power struggles or the social processes of ascent or to halt descent of any given 
entity. By being 'external', neutral though pervasive and ever-present, as 
well as 'internal' and integrated, the order could provide such capital to all 
comers, while it might be counter-productive for any entity to try to oppose it 
(this only happened, in Kanem, when the French turned up and provided an 
alternative, external, source of power: at this point one half of the Awlad 
Sulayman broke with the Sanusis and joined the French cause). 54 

The brotherhood's role in providing a source of 'social welfare' is thus 
inscribed into this dynamic relationship. For the families or lineage entities 
that were on the losing end of the scale, the brotherhood provided not only 
direct economic aid in terms of lending land for cultivation or by hand-outs, 
but also symbolic capital by attachment. In this way, the former nomads, 
although having to accept the humiliation of becoming sedentary, could 
mitigate this by their attachment to the spiritual power of the lodge and its 
shaykh. In this way, and perhaps also by sharing in the voluntary labour in 
principle provided equally by all members of the tribe, rich and poor, the 
degradation became more bearable. And allowing the families some land of 

54 Triaud 1995, 477n, 515 & 622, and Vikor 1999, 256-57. 


Sufism and Social Welfare in the Sahara 

their own in the name of the lodge could at least give them the hope of re¬ 
building their fortunes and in the future getting animals of their own again to 
re-enter the higher social circles. 

Thus, social welfare was provided not just directly for pious and moral 
reasons, but also as a side process of the general integration of the brotherhood 
with the surrounding social structure of the desert. 


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Sufi Leaders and Social Welfare 

Two Examples from Contemporary Sudan 1 

Rudiger Seesemann 

The following contribution deals with two issues. Firstly, it addresses the 
general question of Sufism and social welfare. Secondly, it situates the social 
welfare activities of Sufis in the political and economic context of contemporary 
Sudan and discusses the impact of Islamist rule on recent developments in the 
field of social welfare and praxis. The two issues are closely related to each 
other, because the social welfare activities of Sudanese Sufis are motivated 
both by religious aspirations and by the failure of the Islamic regime to 
respond to the social dilemma in the country. 

To my knowledge, there are no comprehensive studies of Sufis and their 
involvement in social welfare. The focus of my research on the Tijaniya Sufi 
order and contemporary Islam in the Sudan was not on social welfare, and 
therefore the considerations in the present paper have a tentative character. 
They constitute a first step towards an argument on the social welfare 
initiatives of Sufis. More research is needed before final conclusions can be 

The tentative character of the argument is also due to the fact that the 
material offered here essentially consists of only two examples of social wel¬ 
fare activities undertaken by Sufi leaders. These concern a shaykh of the 
Tijaniya Sufi order in Darfur (Western Sudan) and a shaykh of the Qadirlya 
order in Kadabas (Nile Valley). Due to the lack of documentation of other 
cases—which do certainly exist—there is no basis for comparison. But the 
examples of the two Sudanese shaykhs above clearly suggest that Sufis are 
indeed deeply involved in social welfare. 

In order to place the two examples in a wider context, the paper begins 
with a discussion of the study of Sufism in more general terms. This is followed 
by a short description of contemporary political and economic developments 
in the Sudan with a focus on the situation in the field of social welfare. The 
concluding remarks constitute an attempt to interpret the social welfare 
activities of the two shaykhs. 

1 I would like to express my gratitude to the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft for the funding 
of my research. I am also grateful to Kurt Beck and the participants of the Helsinki Workshop 
on "Social lustice. Social Welfare and Praxis in Islamic Societies in Africa" (Helsinki, April 23-24, 
1999) for commenting on this paper. 


Rudiger Seesemann 

Approaches to the Study of Sufism 

Evidently, the angle from which Sufism is viewed in the academic literature 
depends much on the specialisation of the respective author. A political sci¬ 
entist will turn his attention to power relations, an economist will focus on 
economic performance, a sociologist on social organisation, scholars of re¬ 
ligious studies on theological dimensions and so forth. My concern is mainly 
with two other ways of studying Sufism (and Islam in general): the anthro¬ 
pological approach and the 'orientalist' approach. One of the principal dif¬ 
ferences between the two approaches is related to methodology. Anthro¬ 
pologists derive their understanding of Islam in general and Sufism in par¬ 
ticular from the study of rituals and practices in a religious community, study 
which is usually based on research in a local context. 'Orientalists', on the 
other hand, obtain their perception of Islam and Sufism primarily through the 
study of texts. 2 

These two perspectives are reflected in the categories 'orthodox Islam' 
and 'popular Islam', the latter being the domain of the anthropologists, 
whereas the first is the field in which 'orientalists' are active. As a conse¬ 
quence, the 'orientalists' tend to draw an idealistic picture of their subject, just 
as it is depicted in the written sources. Their focus on the normative character of 
religion leads them to assume that the norms constitute reality. Whatever falls 
outside the realm of this reality does not belong to 'orthodox Islam', but has to 
be related to other, often external sources. In contrast, the anthropological view 
is inclined to see the existence of many Islams, because the findings of the 
anthropologists show significant differences in the practices of various Muslim 
communities. By putting the emphasis on Islam as practised, they acknowledge 
the contribution of individuals or groups to the process of translating texts into 
'real life', but they ignore the fact that the world religion of Islam (and 
sometimes also the doctrine of a Sufi order) always remains the frame of 
reference in which the actors make their decisions and interpretations. Local 
practices of Muslims are thus considered in a way that isolates them from their 
doctrinal sources. 

Apart from this criticism, both academic disciplines definitely have their 
strong points. But when it comes to certain questions, they might fail to 
provide complete answers. In the case of the 'orientalist' approach this applies 
especially to issues that are relevant in the everyday life of Muslims or to 
questions related to supposedly 'unorthodox' religious practices. As an 
example, one could cite the relationship between Islam, work and the work 
ethic. The 'orientalist' contributions to this topic are able to produce a cata¬ 
logue of norms that is supposed to regulate the working practice and the 
organisation of labour. Yet the practical relevance of these norms is not con- 

2 By using the term 'orientalists', I do not allude to the pejorative meaning attached to that 
term in the wake of the debate over Edward Said's famous book. Here, the term is rather used 
to characterise a specific methodological approach to the study of Islam. 


Sufi Leaders and Social Welfare 

sidered at all. 3 When anthropologists talk about Islam and the work ethic, they 
usually refer to the Senegalese Murldlya Sufi order which they view as a 
unique phenomenon. The idea that work can become a means of attaining 
salvation is seen as a departure from Islamic 'orthodoxy', and is presented as 
being limited to the case of the Murldlya. 4 However, a closer look at the 
practices of other Sufi orders reveals that the principal concept of work is the 
same in various other Sufi contexts, too. 5 

It thus follows that there are elements of Sufism which escape the 
attention of 'orientalists', just as there are aspects which are neglected by 
anthropologists. The statement that the 'pious ideals' pursued by a Sufi order 
always have the 'primacy' over 'external' activities 6 might be true from an 
'orientalist' point of view, and it might even correspond to the self-perception 
of learned Sufis. But this perception is not necessarily shared by the 'ordinary' 
followers who might attach a different meaning to their Sufi identity. To 
describe the social, political or economic effects of Sufi orders as 'side-effects' of 
a primary purpose is to assume the existence of a single essence of Sufism 
which is, in fact, quite a problematic presupposition. It seems rather that the 
Sufis themselves do not divorce their involvement in the social, economic or 
political fields from their religious activities in the field of piety and of ideas. 7 
There might be a clear distinction between spiritual and temporal affairs, but 
the two are nevertheless closely related to each other. 8 With few exceptions, 
Sufis have always actively participated in the development of the 
surrounding society, and sometimes they have even shaped the course of 
significant historical events—regardless of the fact that the literature produced 
by Sufi scholars does not contain explicit references to social or political 
activities. 9 To study such activities is not to deny the importance of 'pious 
ideals' or the possible relevance of religious ideas for 'real life'. 

This consideration finally takes us back to the issue of social welfare. 
Simply because Sufism lacks an ideology or doctrine that encourages or 
regulates social welfare activities it does not necessarily follow that Sufis do not 

3 See Seesemann 1996,141, and Beck 1996,162-65. 

4 For references see Seesemann 1996,143. 

5 For instance, the role assigned to work is very similar among the Tijanrya. For details see 
Seesemann 1996. 

6 See the contribution of Knut Vikor (Chapter IV) in the present volume. 

7 I do not share the opinion expressed by Vikor (Chapter IV) that the 'internal' or 'pious' side 
has to be seen as independent from the 'external', 'organisational' side. Those who read Vikor's 
contribution together with mine will notice the allusion to my paper as presenting the Sufi 
orders as social welfare organisations. I think from what I write it is clear that this is hardly my 
intention. The point I do make is that in order to find out what Sufis do in terms of social wel¬ 
fare, we have to study their practice and not only their writings. See also note 10 below. 

8 The study of Islam, work and work ethic is a case in point. See Seesemann 1996. 

9 Certainly, there is no such thing in Sufism as a blueprint of how Sufis are supposed to pursue 
social or political affairs, nor do we find clear instructions of how social welfare activities are to 
be conducted. On the other hand, there usually is a clear and systematic concept of the 
mystical path. Therefore, neither involvement in politics nor social activity is an intrinsic 
feature that makes a Sufi a Sufi. 


Rudiger Seesemann 

engage in this field. Even without a doctrinal foundation, the lodge ( zawiya , pi. 
zawaya) as the basic unit of Sufi organisation can perform the function of a 
centre where social welfare services are offered. There are indeed many 
indications which support the view that the Sufis have played and continue to 
play a vital role in the promotion of social welfare 10 —as a complement to (and 
not separate from) the promotion of piety and inner religious experience. The 
question of whether the social function performed by a Sufi order should be 
considered a by-product or side-effect of a 'primary purpose' or not is only of 
minor importance for the study of Sufism and social welfare. There may be no 
mention of social or economic activities in the doctrinal foundation of a Sufi 
order, but probably this absence has more to do with the character of the 
existing sources than with the actual non-involvement of the Sufis in the 
affairs of the wider society. 

War, Disaster, and Poverty as Challenges to Social Welfare 

in the Sudan 

Contemporary Sudanese society is characterised by extreme social, economic 
and ethnic divisions which have deepened as a consequence of the war in the 
South. The Southern regions are at present characterised by the total dis¬ 
ruption of state structures and social security systems, whereas the Northern, 
Eastern and Western parts of the Sudan continue to suffer drought and 
famine. 11 The tense situation is further aggravated by the unrelenting eco¬ 
nomic decline; indeed, in the cities as well as in the rural areas poverty has 
already reached alarming levels. 12 

Since the military coup of June 1989, the Sudan has been ruled by an 
Islamist regime. The government is certainly aware of the predicament that 
began to take shape in the early 1980s, but until now it has failed to respond to 
the immense problems in an appropriate manner. The continuing de¬ 
valuation of the Sudanese Pound is but one indication of the failure of the 
regime's economic policy. The measures taken by the ruling Islamists to im¬ 
prove the living conditions of the Northern Muslim population are either 
ineffective or nothing more than simple propaganda. Even if there are pro¬ 
grammes that aim to establish social services and health facilities, or to create 
new sources of income for the impoverished rural population, widespread 

10 This is not to say that the role played by Sufis in social welfare activities can always be de¬ 
scribed in terms of a formal social security system. I will come back to the distinction between 
formal and informal systems of social welfare later (see below, in the section "Sufis and Suda¬ 
nese Muslim society"). 

11 This article is not concerned with the population living in the South, nor does it discuss the 
situation of the so-called displaced people, i.e. the Southerners who took refuge in the 
Northern Sudan and number approximately four million. On the issue of displacement, see 
Eltigani 1995. The contributors to this volume also deal with the people from Eastern and 
Western Sudan who were displaced by drought. 

12 See Ahmad & El-Batthani 1995. 


Sufi Leaders and Social Welfare 

corruption and lack of financial resources have prevented any significant 
change for the better . 13 

The Sudanese Islamists nevertheless continue to present their policy in 
terms of a 'civilisational project' based on 'authentic' Islam. The Islamist ver¬ 
sion of Islam as reflected in the idea of 'civilisation' shows a number of specific 
features that determine the approach to social welfare. A few remarks on the 
Islamist concept and practice of social welfare are necessary to provide the 
background to the Sufis' social activities that are discussed later. 

Islamist Rule and Social Welfare 

In the Sudan, Islamism serves not only as a religious ideology but the Suda¬ 
nese protagonists of Islamism seek to translate the prescripts of Islam into 
political practice. The Islamic political universe as conceived by Hasan al- 
Turabl and his associates consists of only two groups: committed Muslims who 
fight for the cause of Islam on the one hand, and the enemies of Islam on the 
other. This distinction is crucial, because it allows Islamists to blame the 
internal and external adversaries for virtually every social and economic 
problem the Sudanese are faced with. Thus, according to the Islamists, 'the 
West' is responsible for the underdevelopment of the country. Western policy 
is accused of trying to isolate the Sudan, just because the present government 
has opted for Islam as the only guideline of its policy. Furthermore, British 
colonial policy is said to have created the North-South division of the Sudan. 
Nowadays, neo-colonialism is identified as the new enemy which wants to 
accomplish the work started by the British by giving support to the Sudanese 
People's Liberation Army of John Garang. 

Against the background of this scenario, the Islamist government draws 
a picture of an authentic Muslim nation of fighters standing against the forces 
of evil. This kind of struggle necessarily implies that the fighters are deprived 
of worldly pleasures. Renouncement is their principle in this life-the reward is 
waiting for them in the hereafter. This is the logic used by the Islamist rulers 
in the attempt to convince their subjects that they have to endure the 
hardships of everyday life and economic plight. As the Sudanese Islamists 
have decided to establish a truly Islamic state, they reject any foreign aid 
provided by non-Muslims. Instead, they preach an ideology of self-reliance 
and claim that the country's resources are sufficient to feed and clothe its 
people, as in the slogan rnfkul min ma nazra c , nalbas min ma nasna c , which 
translates as "we eat what we sow, and we wear what we produce". However, 
the more cynically-inclined Sudanese often add to this slogan the phrase zva- 
nadhak min ma nasma c : "and we laugh at what we hear". 

Considering it is a totalitarian regime that bases its legitimacy on reli¬ 
gion, it does not come as a surprise that the Sudanese Government's propa- 

13 According to El-Battahani, all these efforts had little impact on poverty alleviation. See fur¬ 
ther El-Battahani 1996,19. 


Rudiger Seesemann 

ganda relies on religious arguments. The Governor of Northern Darfur pub¬ 
licly addressed the question of food shortage in the rural areas plagued by 
drought, first accusing 'the West' of having fabricated the news of famine in 
the Sudan, and then conveying the following message to those who still 
thought that there might not be enough food: "There is no food shortage, there 
is only shortage of faith". In other words, the truly faithful are supposed to be 
content with what they have, since it is God alone who decides whether there 
is food or not. The believers have to submit to divine judgement. According to 
the Qur'an, God is the distributor of wealth (rizcj), and thus every human 
being has to be grateful for the share of wealth allotted to him. 

Yet, the emphasis put on this attitude by the present rulers of the Sudan 
does not mean that the solution to the problem of social justice offered by 
Islamism lies only in the simple acceptance of God's decision. In the Sudan as 
elsewhere, the leading Islamist ideologues like to dwell on the just nature of 
Islam and the equality of all believers before God . 14 According to this view, 
Islam provides the blueprint for the perfect, just society, and it is the task of the 
small group of true believers to realise the lofty ideals of social justice, in their 
everyday life as well as in the projected Islamic state. The application of the 
shari c a is believed to be the surest way to establish God's rule on earth, and 
whenever there is injustice, the Muslims are urged to rush to the support of 
their fellow Muslims. 

However, contrary to the claims of the Islamists, the application of the 
sharl c a in the Sudan did not automatically lead to the prevailing of social jus¬ 
tice. With regard to social welfare, the government-sponsored measures are 
almost exclusively concerned with the mujahidun who fight in the 'Holy War' 
in Southern Sudan, or with the families of the so-called martyrs who died on 
the battlefields . 15 The revenue collected by the government in the name of 
zakat is for the most part used for the jihad; the rest is either absorbed by the 
administration or by corruption . 16 Clearly, Islamists make use of their social 
welfare activities in order to further their personal, political and even military 
goals. The same seems to be true of two Islamic non-government organisations 
that operate in the Sudan, namely the Islamic African Relief Agency and the 
Munazzamat al-Da c wa al-Isldmiya. In fact, the welfare and relief programs run by 
these organisations appear to be no more than a cover for their proselytising 
activities . 17 

14 A prominent example is the Egyptian Islamist thinker Sayyid Qutb whose book al- c Addla al- 
ijtima c iyafl 3 l-lsldm (English translation: Social Justice in Islam, New York 1980) is still widely read, 
and not only by Islamists. 

15 Examples are the organisation Z ad al-mujahid which is concerned with allocating funds for 
the fighters and the Munazzamat umm al-shahid which gives financial and material support to 
the mothers of martyrs. 

16 On the inefficiency of the present zakat practice, see El-Battahani 1996,19. 

17 Bellion-Jourdan 1997. 


Sufi Leaders and Social Welfare 

Elsewhere, particularly in Egypt, Islamists do enjoy a certain popularity 
among the Muslim population on account of their social welfare programs . 18 
Although they are in power in the Sudan, they offer nothing but empty 
rhetoric. The almost total failure of the Islamist government in responding to 
the needs of the Sudanese population comes as a challenge to the existing 
social and religious forces. 

Sufis and Sudanese Muslim Society 

There is no need to stress the importance of Sufi orders in the Sudan. This has 
already been done by a number of authors since the colonial period . 19 In their 
works, much attention has been paid to the political involvement of Sufi 
leaders. Several studies have also dealt with the religious dimensions of 
Sufism in the Sudan, and we are relatively well informed about the educa¬ 
tional activities of the Sufi orders. However, when it comes to the question of 
social welfare, there are only a few scattered remarks that acknowledge the 
involvement of Sufis in this domain. 

Many studies have pointed to the fact that the Qur 'anic school, known as 
khalwa and in many cases directed by Sufis, is not only about memorising the 
word of God . 20 In addition to this immediate task, the khalwa also fulfils several 
social functions: It may serve as a rest house for visitors and travellers, as a 
refuge or sanctuary, and as a place for settling disputes. The head of the khalwa, 
usually called faki in the Sudan, performs a great variety of tasks, ranging 
from the writing of amulets to the medical treatment of people suffering from 
both physical or mental diseases . 21 

Historical sources as well as contemporary accounts indicate that similar 
services have been and continue to be offered by the zawaya, the religious 
centres of the Sufi orders . 22 The multiple functions performed by institutions 
linked to the Sufi orders such as the khalwa and the zawiya account for the 
significant role played by these orders as informal social security systems. A 
comprehensive study of the issue might even show that the appeal of the Sufi 
orders also stems from the fact that the shaykhs were not only concerned with 
spiritual welfare, but also with social welfare and the material needs of the 
Muslim community. In addition, for the followers of the Sufi orders, worldly 
success depends on the blessings provided by the shaykhs —this can be taken 
as a further indication of the connection between the spiritual sphere and 

18 See Rieger 1996. 

19 To mention only some of those who wrote in English or French: Trimingham 1949, Voll 1969 
and Voll 1992, Grandin 1989, Bleuchot 1996, Karrar 1992, O'Fahey 1993, and al-Karsani 1985. 
Another very rich study is Hofheinz 1996. 

20 See for instance Karrar 1992, 137-44 and Seesemann 1995, 100. One of the few studies that 
deal with the non-educational aspects of the khalum is Abdel-Galil 1974. 

21 For a detailed description of th efakis activities, see El-Tom 1983, 59-111. 

22 This is well documented in the academic literature on the Sufi orders. See for instance 
Garcin 1996. 


Rudiger Seesemann 

material matters. The believers visit a Sufi shaykh because of the latter's 
material and spiritual capacities. Neither the material not the spiritual side of 
this relationship is necessarily formalised; the exact contents and the form of 
the interaction between the shaykh and his followers may indeed vary from 
case to case and over time. 

However, the purpose of the present article is not to give a detailed de¬ 
scription of the informal social welfare services 'traditionally' offered by Sufi 
orders. 23 If we take the close relations of the Sufis with the surrounding society 
for granted, the questions arises of how they respond to a crisis situation such 
as that in contemporary Sudan. Is the 'traditional' system of social security as 
embodied in the khalwa and the zawiya capable of contributing to the solution 
of problems caused by 'modern' circumstances? Can the Sufi shaykhs offer 
more than spiritual support to those who have to cope with economic 
hardships, drought and disaster? In the following, I will present two Sudanese 
Sufi leaders who have taken the initiative in finding practical solutions for the 
social dilemma in contemporary Sudan. 

Shaykh Ibrahim Sidi and His Program of Social Rehabilitation 

for Street Children 

The first case study concerns a program of social rehabilitation for problem 
and street children that is run by a leader of the Tijanlya Sufi order in the town 
of El Fasher, the capital of Northern Darfur Province. 24 Shaykh Ibrahim Sidi, 
the initiator of this project, was one of my informants during the research I 
conducted in Darfur in 1994 and 1995 25 In addition to the conversations I had 
with him about his social welfare activities, the following information is also 
drawn from a short treatise written by shaykh Ibrahim Sidi in 1989, entitled 
"My experience with the youth: Meeting the challenge". 26 

Ibrahim Sidi's career as a Sufi shaykh started in the late 1970s when he 
decided to quit his job as a teacher in order to dedicate himself solely to the 
promotion of the Tijanlya order. In 1979, he opened his zawiya at the Tijanlya 
quarter in El Fasher, next to the mosque erected by his late father Sidi 
Muhammad in the early 1950s. Shortly thereafter shaykh Ibrahim Sidi took 
charge of the neighbouring Qur 'anic school which had already existed before 
the establishment of the mosque. Together with his elder brother Muhammad 

23 In fact, such a task would require thorough research and, more importantly, a clear 
definition of what is to be understood by such terms as 'social security' and 'traditional'. 

24 According to the 1993 census, El Fasher had slightly more than 140,000 inhabitants. The 
rapid population increase is evident when this number is compared to the estimated 
population of 45,000 in 1977. 

25 Results of this research are presented in Seesemann 1996 and Seesemann 2000. 

26 Ibrahim Sidi, Tajrubati m c a 3 l-ahdath al-tasaddi wa 3 l-tahaddi , 1989. He wrote this 5-page 
account in order to distribute it to government officials and interested individuals. It is not 
published. Shaykh Ibrahim died in September 1999, a few months after this article was written. 
For a more recent assessment of his life and his writings, see Seesemann (forthcoming). 


Sufi Leaders and Social Welfare 

al-Ghali, shaykh Ibrahim SIdl later designed a reform program for the khalwa 
which they called isldli al-ahdath, social rehabilitation of the youth. In doing 
this, they intended "to react to the challenges posed by the contemporary 
social conditions". 27 The Qur'anic school was supposed to offer "a noble 
alternative to the youth" 28 who are homeless or led astray by alcohol and 
drug addiction. 

Indeed, one of the most striking features of Sudanese towns is the 
omnipresence of boys, most of them aged between 6 and 18 years, who beg 
and hang around in the streets. This phenomenon is called tasharrud, i.e. 
vagabondage, and the boys are commonly known as sharnmasha, a term de¬ 
rived from shams, the Arabic word for 'sun', being an allusion to the fact that 
the children do not have a roof over their heads. In the cities of the Central 
Sudan, many are Southerners, but in the Western Sudan, the majority of the 
boys are either from the countryside or are urban school drop-outs, with a low 
proportion of Southerners. 29 

The boys are commonly said to be drug addicts; in particular, the practice 
of sniffing glue or solvents is attributed to them. Other drugs, such as 
marijuana, or alcoholic drinks such as c aragl, a popular brand of locally dis¬ 
tilled spirits, are too expensive to be consumed by the s hammasha on a regular 

According to shaykh Ibrahim, the sharnmasha only appeared in the 1980s. 
He relates their increased presence in public areas to the "pernicious atmos¬ 
phere of modern cities" and puts the blame on the "modern style of educa¬ 
tion" which fails to provide the children with the morals and spiritual values 
of Islam. 30 The lack of religious orientation has led to the emergence of a 
"culture of libertinism" that has shaken the very basis of society. 31 In addition, 
the diffusion of modern mass media such as television and video has 
facilitated access to Western movies that undermine the values of Islam. 

However, shaykh Ibrahim believes that the invasion by this foreign civi¬ 
lisation would probably not have succeeded on such a large scale, were it not 
for the simultaneous weakening of local society caused by the drought that hit 
the Sudan in the early 1980s. Indeed, in the wake of environmental de¬ 
gradation, rural-urban migration reached new levels and brought thousands 
of newcomers to the towns of Northern Darfur. According to shaykh Ibrahim 
SIdl's interpretation, this development undermined the cohesion of families. 
Family members were dispersed, and the fathers who were either absent or 

27 SIdl 1989,1. 

28 Ibid. 

29 To my knowledge, statistical data on the sharnmasha is not available. It is difficult to say any¬ 
thing definite about their numbers and their areas of origin. There are reports by UNICEF, ILO 
and CARE on street children but these address mainly the situation of the 'displaced people' in 
the cities of the Central Sudan. 

30 SIdl 1989, 2. 

31 Ibid. 


Rudiger Seesemann 

occupied with finding a way to feed their families lost authority over their 
sons. As a consequence, the youth deviated from the right path: they ceased 
going to school and started stealing, they used drugs and had illicit sexual 
relations. As for the fathers, they often turned away from their sons, unable to 
find a solution to the problem. These are the boys who constitute the target 
group of shaykh Ibrahim Sidi's social welfare activities. 

The Qur'anic school is at the core of the rehabilitation program designed 
by shaykh Ibrahim, as he believes that the indispensable prerequisite for the 
building of a just and virtuous society lies in the sound religious education of 
its members. Since the early 1980s, the program has evolved gradually from 
the occasional admission of shammasha into the khalwa. They usually lived as 
boarders in the Qur'anic school, together with other boys who had left their 
families in order to pursue their religious studies. In addition to the boarders, 
the children of the neighbourhood attended the lessons in the early morning 
and in the afternoon. 

Directed by shaykh Ibrahim Sidi and his brother Muhammad al-Ghali, 
the khalwa in the Tijanlya quarter soon became very popular. Within a short 
period of time, it gained a reputation for dealing with problem children in an 
effective way. Subsequently, fathers came from all over Darfur to get their 
sons admitted into the Qur'anic school. During the first years of the 
shammasha' s presence in the khalwa, their training did not differ from the one 
given to the other children. But by 1987, when the problem children out¬ 
numbered the ordinary disciples for the first time, shaykh Ibrahim and 
Muhammad al-Ghali took action in order to respond to their particular needs. 

The shammasha can easily be distinguished from the ordinary disciples, 
because they are put in chains as soon as they are admitted to the khalwa? 2 
This measure is only taken with the prior consent of the father or legal 
guardian, but it is considered necessary by shaykh Ibrahim in order to prevent 
the boys from running away at the first opportunity. In addition, those 
children who are suspected of drug addiction are kept in isolation from the 
others, and their relatives can only visit them after being searched. On a 
regular basis, a doctor checks the physical condition of the boys. In the first 
phase after their arrival, most of the shammasha are reluctant to stay at the 
Qur'anic school or to attend lessons. But sooner or later the moment comes 
when their will is broken. They give up their resistance and start to join the 
other children, gradually integrating themselves into the life of the khalwa. 
They are not yet required to memorise the Qur'an, and some of them spend 
weeks just listening to the others. Shaykh Ibrahim Sidi is confident that the new 
environment does have a positive effect on the boys, as he expresses in the 

2,2 There are even different kinds of chains: newcomers usually start with very restrictive ones, 
and later they get slacker ones as a result of good conduct. But disobedience can always be pun¬ 
ished by tightening the chains, and the most severe set of chains makes it impossible for the 
offender to move. Each kind of chain is known by a particular name. Similar methods of pun¬ 
ishment for disobedient students continue to be applied in quite a few Qur’anic schools in sub- 
Saharan Africa. 


Sufi Leaders and Social Welfare 

statement: "The first step is to keep them away from the evil, the second step is 
to take them to the good". 33 

To shaykh Ibrahim Sidi, the 'good' is the correct Islamic practice that be¬ 
gins with the daily performance of the five prayers and the memorisation of 
the Qur c an. As soon as the shammasha participate fully in the khalwa routine, 
they are released from the chains. But shaykh Ibrahim sees that additional 
measures are required in order to prevent the boys from relapsing into drug 
addiction or committing petty offences after their release from khalwa. He 
maintains that "necessity is not only the mother of invention, but also the 
mother of deviation", 34 and is thus convinced that the only long-term solution 
for the shammasha lies in providing them with school education or vocational 
training. On the basis of this consideration, shaykh Ibrahim Sidi has decided to 
establish a school especially for problem children and to offer them a 
vocational training program. 

In 1987, the program started with the establishment of a butcher's and a 
workshop for construction workers. The first building project was a dormitory 
that was intended to accommodate the boys who lived in the khalwa. The 
municipal authorities of El Fasher later approved the construction of three 
classrooms and an office for the teachers of the projected Complementary 
School. Next to the school, which started to operate in 1989 with the official 
permission of the Ministry of Education, the boys constructed a small health 
centre and a shop that was run on a co-operative basis. By the end of 1989, 
there were more than 170 children staying as boarders in the Qur'anic school, 
and the proportion of the shammasha had reached almost 70 per cent. 

In its first year, the Complementary School was run with one class of 30 
boys, most of them former school drop-outs with learning difficulties. The 
curriculum extended over two years and was designed by the director 
Muhammad al-Ghali who was assisted by one teacher. The children were 
taught reading, writing, history, mathematics and science, with the objective 
of helping them catch up with the standard in public schools. In the following 
period, the Complementary School expanded annually and finally comprised 
four classes. In order to feed the increasing number of boarding students, 
shaykh Ibrahim Sidi successfully applied for support from the United Nations' 
World Food Program. The khalwa and the Complementary School regularly 
received food donations, usually in the form of wheat. The shaykh then bought 
a generator and a grain mill, thus ensuring the food supply for the 
continuously growing number of children. 

In a next step, shaykh Ibrahim set up three more workshops to teach the 
shammasha the basics of carpentry, car repairing and the production of metal 
goods. The instruction was carried out by followers of the shaykh who lived 
with him in the zawiya. At a later stage, they were aided by those boys who 
already had acquired some experience in their respective fields. The material 

33 Sidi 1989, 3. 

34 Ibid. 


Rudiger Seesemann 

required for running the workshops came from donations or was bought by 
shaykh Ibrahim SIdl himself. The vocational training was free of charge, as was 
the Complementary School. The only revenue that came to the khalwa from the 
families of the children is small amounts of money paid to the heads of the 
Qur'anic schools according to the tradition of Darfur. The products 
manufactured by the boys in the carpentry and metal workshops, such as 
chairs and tables, were either used in the Complementary School or sold at the 

Another remarkable feature of shaykh Ibrahim Sidi's rehabilitation pro¬ 
gram was the emphasis put on encouraging the creative capacities of the 
problem children. The shaykh explicitly says that he wants to impart an 
"aesthetic sense" 35 to the boys, a task he tries to accomplish by supplying 
them with musical instruments, sheets of paper and coloured pencils. In ad¬ 
dition, he encouraged them to form small theatre groups where they can 
perform their own sketches. From time to time, these sketches were presented 
in the khalwa or the neighbouring Complementary School on the occasion of 
public celebrations. Moreover, regular meetings were held by shaykh Ibrahim 
and Muhammad al-Ghali with the shammasha in order to give them the 
opportunity to talk about their personal experiences and concerns. 

The standard duration of stay in the Qur'anic school was fixed at three 
years for the problem children who participated in the rehabilitation pro¬ 
gram. According to shaykh Ibrahim Sidi, this is the period required for the 
measures undertaken to have a profound influence and a lasting effect on the 
shammasha. For the other boys, the duration of their stay depends on how they 
proceed in their religious studies. Those who intend to learn the whole Qur 'an 
by heart spend up to five years in the khalwa, but most children leave as soon 
as they have obtained some basic knowledge of Islam and its Holy Book. 

In 1994, Muhammad al-Ghali made the pilgrimage to Mecca. As there 
was nobody to stay in charge of the khalwa during his absence, all the children 
were sent home and the school was closed. After his return from the Hijaz, 
Muhammad al-Ghali was not able to reopen the boarding school due to lack of 
funds and material resources. Since that time, only children who live in the 
neighbouring quarters of El Fasher are admitted to the Complementary 
School, and the khalwa operates exclusively for those who come to memorise 
the Qur'an in the early morning and in the afternoon. During my stay in El 
Fasher, I witnessed only one single person in chains there. 

Nevertheless, the statistics compiled by Muhammad al-Ghali are im¬ 
pressive. They show that more than 2,200 children were admitted to the khalwa 
as boarders between 1980 and 1994. 500 boys classified as 'deviated' passed 
through the rehabilitation program that started in 1987. According to shaykh 
Ibrahim, most of the shammasha have not returned to life on the streets. 
Although it is difficult to verify this statement, I am inclined to believe that it is 
true. In the course of my research that extended over 15 months, I frequently 

35 Ibid. 


Sufi Leaders and Social Welfare 

met young men in different places who told me that they had stayed at the 
khalwa of shaykh Ibrahim SIdl. When I asked them to describe their experience 
with the shaykh, almost all of them expressed their gratitude to shaykh Ibrahim 
SIdl and Muhammad al-Ghali. They readily admitted that the rehabilitation 
program enabled them to change their lives, and some have even found jobs 
on the basis of what they had learned in the vocational training. In general, 
shaykh Ibrahim enjoys a great popularity among the youth of El Fasher. 

What are the motives behind shaykh Ibrahim Sidi's initiative? As mentioned 
above, the shaykh sees his effort as a response to the spread of immorality that 
threatens Islamic society. In his booklet "My experience with the youth", he 
gives a number of quotations from the Qur'an and the hadith to explain why 
he decided to take action. Islam, shaykh Ibrahim SIdl states, is an active and 
dynamic religion designed to be applicable to everyday life. It exhorts the 
believer to lead an exemplary life according to the rules of the Qur 'an and the 
Sunna. But the Qur'an not only lays down the guidelines for individual 
behaviour—moreover, it includes a comprehensive constitution for society as 
a whole. In this capacity, the Qur'an offers the perfect solution for every 
problem. Thus, a return to religious roots can provide the proper remedy to 
cure all kinds of deviation and social malady. 36 

The central role assigned to the Qur 'an in saving the Muslim umma from 
evil explains why the methods applied by shaykh Ibrahim in his work with 
the boys concentrate on the memorisation of the Qur'an. In this respect, the 
method does clearly relate to the Islamic tradition of education and learning as 
practised in Darfur for centuries. 37 In the perception of the Muslim population 
of Darfur, memorising the Qur'an has always been a precondition for the 
well-being of the people and the functioning of their society. From that 
perspective, shaykh Ibrahim Sidi's approach is derived from a 'traditional' 
concept of social welfare. And indeed, putting children in chains does seem to 
be a rather archaic technique for social rehabilitation. 

What renders this case exceptional is the innovative approach taken by 
shaykh Ibrahim SIdl in responding to the specific situation of the street chil¬ 
dren. Contrary to the ruling Islamists who give the impression that the invo¬ 
cation of the shari c a will release the Sudanese from their suffering, shaykh 
Ibrahim does not stop at preaching the healing powers of compliance with the 
prescripts of Islam. Apart from spiritual assistance, shaykh Ibrahim Sidi's 

36 In the words of shaykh Ibrahim SIdl: "In teaching and memorising the Qur’an, and in living 
according to its rules, the Muslims have always found the best and most exalted model of soci¬ 
ety. That is why the Muslims have been concerned with learning and teaching the Qur’an 
since the days of the Prophet Muhammad, and will be up to the day when God inherits the 
earth" (SIdl 1989,1). 

37 I have described this tradition of learning in two papers on Qur’anic schools and Islamic 
education in Darfur (Seesemann 1995 and Seesemann 1999). 


Rudiger Seesemann 

rehabilitation program offers practical solutions to the problems of the 
shammasha. The objective is to help them become integrated into a modern¬ 
ising urban society. 

At this juncture it is interesting to note that the religious justification 
given by shaykh Ibrahim Sidi is coupled with humanitarian considerations. 
The shaykh 's decision to take care of the street boys was not only motivated by 
his wish to fight against immorality—he also borrows from the rhetoric of 
humanitarian aid by presenting his work for the youth as a contribution to the 
world wide fight against drug addiction and as a part of the struggle for a 
better future on the planet. Actually, the commitment to humanitarian 
principles in his approach is reflected in the transformation of the khahva into a 
vocational training centre. At the same time, shaykh Ibrahim Sidi tried to 
improve his agenda by adopting modern educational concepts such as 
stimulating the creativity and imagination of the boys by means of music, 
theatre and arts. 

Shaykh al-ja c all and the Charity Hospital at Kadabas 

The second case I would like to present deals with the Charity Hospital es¬ 
tablished in 1997 by shaykh al-Hajj Hamad Muhammad al-Ja c ali, a leader of the 
Qadirlya Sufi order in Kadabas in the region of Berber. Although the example 
of this hospital shows some differences from the case of shaykh Ibrahim Sidi, 
both examples have in common that they do not simply constitute a 
continuation of informal social security systems, but are 'modern' responses to 
contemporary problems. The formal character of the hospital project is 
indicated by the fact that it was undertaken by an association founded 
especially for the purpose of promoting social welfare: the 'Shaykh al-Ja c ali 
Charity Society' (Janfiyat al-shaykh al-]a c all al-khayriya ). 38 

Since the mid-nineteenth century, Kadabas has had a high reputation as 
a religious centre. 39 Ahmad al-Ja c ali, the founder of Kadabas, was initiated into 
the Qadirlya order in the 1860s, and after his death the zaiviya continued to be 
maintained by his descendants. In recent decades, the fame of Kadabas rested 
on the leadership of shaykh al-Hajj Hamad Muhammad al-Ja c ali, the initiator of 
the charity association, who died in 1998. Apart from the esteem he enjoyed for 
being the head of a well-known centre of religious learning, his own celebrity 
stems from his activities as a 'traditional' healer. In fact, during the lifetime of 
shaykh al-Ja c ali, Kadabas was the destination of an incessant stream of visitors 
who came to seek a cure for their illnesses or simply to receive his blessing 
(baraka). By providing his followers with amulets, special medical treatments 

38 The following account of the hospital essentially relies on the presentation given in a small 
booklet published by the ]am c iyat al-shaykh al-Ja c ali al-khayriya in 1997 under the title entitled 
Mustashfd Kadabas al-khayri ("Kadabas Charity Hospital"). 

39 See Karrar 1992, 34-35. Details on the religious activities and the educational institutions at 
Kadabas are given in Mustashfd Kadabas al-khayri, 7-8. 


Sufi Leaders and Social Welfare 

( c azlma ), baraka and supplicatory prayers, shaykh al-ja c all offered the services 
that are considered to be the 'traditional' tasks of holy men in the Sudan. 

As in other religious centres on the Nile, the core institution at Kadabas is 
the Qur'anic school which has operated since the days of Ahmad al-Ja c ali. The 
memorisation of the Qur 'an is complemented by the so-called 'circles' ( lwlaqdt ) 
and 'assemblies' ( majalis ) where the students can improve their knowledge of 
the Islamic sciences. In the eyes of the followers of shaykh al-Hajj Hamad 
Muhammad al-Ja c ali, the significance of these activities transcends the purely 
religious sphere and extends to society as a whole: "The people in and around 
Kadabas are illuminated by the light that emanates from the Qur 'anic schools, 
and they drink from the sources of knowledge that flow from the majalis ." 40 
This perspective implies that the mere existence of a religious centre 
contributes to the well-being of the whole region and its inhabitants. The same 
notion is explicitly expressed in the following statement: "From the religious 
role played by Kadabas emerges its social role." 41 

The members of the executive board of the hospital project maintain that 
the social role of Kadabas and the activities in the field of religious education 
almost automatically entailed a concern with public health. 42 The idea came 
from the late shaykh al-Hajj Hamad Muhammad al-ja c all himself. The story 
goes that, during a meeting with several of his followers, he suggested that 
they should build a hospital. What initially appeared to them as an impossible 
to realise project was finally achieved through the hard and assiduous work 
and the firm belief of the inhabitants of Kadabas and its surrounding villages. 

In the beginning the approval of the regional authorities was needed in 
order to start the project. The response was positive, though the shaykh was told 
that his people had to build and equip the hospital as a self-help initiative 
because the government was not in a position to offer any financial assistance. 
Much of the work was done in communal labour ( nafir ), and those who 
participated in the construction did not receive wages, "except the reward 
they get from God". 43 The people are said to have been enthusiastic in their 

Then came the delegations from the villages, towns and tribes and they started to com¬ 
pete with each other in this great charitable work. They transformed the place into a 
beehive (...), totally committed to their work for God's cause. The delegations brought 
with them everything they needed: Food, drinking water and even the firewood for 
baking the bricks (...). Through the grace of God, the buildings were soon completed, 
and their greatness and gigantic proportions confirm that the hand of God was with 
the community. 44 

40 Mustashfd Kadabas al-khayn, 7. 

41 Ibid., 8. As examples of the social role the text mentions the judicial function of Kadabas and 
the successful efforts to reconcile feuding tribal groups or individuals. 

42 Ibid. 

43 Ibid., 11. 

44 Ibid. 


Rudiger Seesemann 

Apart from the labour and the construction material provided by the local 
people, the hospital project depended on donations from wealthy Sudanese 
migrants to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. In addition, the Saudi govern¬ 
ment participated in the funding of the hospital equipment and the medical 
instruments. At present, the hospital runs with departments for surgery, in¬ 
ternal medicine, gynaecology, and neurology; it also has a children's clinic 
and an eye clinic. It is designed for 200 in-patients, and the annual budget 
amounts to almost 300,000 US Dollars. More than 50 per cent of the capital 
comes from private donations and from social welfare organisations based 
outside the Sudan; the remaining income consists mainly of treatment fees 
paid by the patients. However, medical treatment is free for those who made 
financial contributions to the hospital during the construction phase. This 
underlines the self-help character of the project. With its modern equipment, 
the clinic is among the best hospitals in the area of Berber. 

The social welfare activities of the 'Shaykh al-ja c all Charity Society' certainly 
constitute an exceptional case in the Sudanese context. 45 At least two features 
have to be seen as peculiar to the hospital project. Firstly, it was undertaken by 
a formal organisation founded for the promotion of social welfare, and 
secondly, its large scale. Nevertheless, as in the case of Ibrahim SIdi's youth 
rehabilitation project that evolved out of the 'traditional' social role of the 
Qur’anic school, the hospital can be viewed as an extension of the 'traditional' 
medical services offered by shaykh al-Hajj Hamad Muhammad al-Ja c ali. 
Whereas the 'traditional' methods of healing and care are applied in an 
informal context, the hospital provides a formal framework for medical 
treatment. Of course, this shift from the informal to the formal sphere also 
implies a shift in the choice of methods: the hospital offers modern medicine, 
whereas the 'traditional' way of dealing with sickness relies on the magical 
power of the fakl. Although shaykh al-Ja c ali was well-known as an effective 
'traditional' healer, he seems to have also embraced the advantages of mod¬ 
ern medicine. 

As mentioned above, the followers of shaykh al-Ja c ali see their initiative 
for the promotion of public health as an extension of their religious and social 
activities. A closer look at the booklet Mustashfd Kadabas al-khayri reveals 
further information regarding the motives for their commitment to the 
charitable cause: the members of the hospital's executive committee identify 
themselves with the group of believers described in the hadith: "God has 
chosen some of his servants for the task of responding to the needs of the 
people. He loves them for their good deeds, and He endows them with His 

45 I do not know of any similar initiative in the Sudan. There are, however, formal charitable 
organisations founded by Sufis in Nigeria and Senegal. In the Senegalese town of Kaolack, 
shaykh Hasan Cisse, an internationally known leader of the Tijanrya order, established a hospital 
in 1998. 


Sufi Leaders and Social Welfare 

grace. They are secure from God's punishment on the Day of Judgement". 46 
This kind of charitable work is supposed to be done for God alone ( li-wajh 
Allah) and with a pure intention ( ikhlas ). Provided that these two conditions are 
fulfilled, everybody who participated in the construction of the hospital will 
get his reward in the Hereafter. 47 

This notion of social welfare does not contain ideas that can be described 
as peculiar to Sufi doctrine. This rather corresponds to the general concept of 
Islamic ethics which is based on the principle of reward and punishment. But 
in view of the lack of efficient health services the followers of shaykh al-Ja c ali do 
not simply submit to their fate. As in the case of shaykh Ibrahim Sidi's 
rehabilitation program, the Qadiri Sufis of Kadabas take the initiative and try 
to put the ethical commands of Islam into practice. This distinguishes them 
from the ruling Islamists whose activities hardly go beyond empty words. 
Moreover, the example of Kadabas Charity Hospital also shows how Sufis are 
capable of responding to 'modern' crisis situations by extending their 
'traditional' sphere of activity. 


By way of conclusion, I would like to consider the social welfare activities of 
shaykh Ibrahim Sidi and shaykh al-Ja c ali in the light of the two general issues 
raised in the introduction. 

With regard to the question of Sufism and social welfare, the social di¬ 
mension of the khalwa as represented in the case of shaykh Ibrahim Sidi and the 
medical services offered by shaykh al-Ja c ali clearly show that at least in these 
two cases, the Sufi orders do not function only as religious organisations in the 
narrow sense. They are concerned with the spiritual as well as with the 
material needs of the followers. 48 Of course, the suggested possibility of 
viewing the institutions run by Sufi orders as 'traditional' social security 
systems needs to be substantiated by future research. Only a better 
understanding of the zawiya and the khalwa as arenas in which social inter¬ 
action takes place would allow us to assess the impact Sufis have on social 

In addition, both shaykhs have initiated social welfare projects that can be 
described in terms of a formalisation of informal social security systems as 
represented by the Qur’anic school and 'traditional' healing methods. The 
youth rehabilitation program and the hospital in Kadabas both show the 
characteristics of formal institutions. In that sense, the activities of shaykh 

46 Mustashfd Kababas al-khayri, 14. 

47 The authors of the booklet express their confidence in the coming recompense in the words 
of a prayer: "May God weigh the work done for His cause on the scale of the good deeds, for all 
those who were dripping with sweat and who have contributed their ideas or their money to 
the accomplishment of the hospital." ( Mustashfd Kadabas al-khayri, 11.) 

48 Hence, I do agree with Viter's statement (see Chapter IV) that we should try to see how the 
pious ideals and the social practice are integrated. 


Rudiger Seesemann 

Ibrahim SIdl and shaykh al-ja c all exceed the range of the social security system 
as traditionally practised by the Sufis. 49 Thus, the two Sudanese shaykhs 
provide examples of Sufi leaders whose social welfare activities can be clas¬ 
sified as belonging to the sphere of 'modern' social security systems. This can 
be taken as an indication of the capacity of the Sufi orders to react to 'modern' 
challenges. Formal social welfare initiatives can therefore be viewed as a part 
of the transformation of the Sufi orders that has occurred in recent decades. 

However, this process of formalisation or modernisation is not the out¬ 
come of a specific Sufi approach to social welfare. As mentioned above, ref¬ 
erence is made to Islamic ethics and not to a particular Sufi doctrine. Hence it is 
the actual performance rather than the doctrine that allows us to identify the 
Sufis as actors in the field of social welfare. This also explains why the 
'orientalist' approach must fail to recognise the role Sufis play in social wel¬ 
fare: the study of texts and ideas cannot provide us with an understanding of 
the social significance of the Sufi orders. Texts will tell us even less about the 
ongoing transformation of the Sufi orders. 

A final consideration of the possible reasons for the formalisation of social 
welfare activities brings us back to the second issue, namely the impact of 
Islamist rule on the development of social welfare in the Sudan. What is 
striking about the current situation in the Sudan is the non-existence of 
efficient social welfare programs directed by the government-sponsored 
Islamist organisations, apart from the activities which serve the jihad in the 
South. The government does almost nothing to improve the precarious 
situation of most Sudanese. The vacuum created by the ruling Islamists is 
filled by informal social security systems, but it also leads to the rise of more 
formalised social welfare initiatives. These circumstances give the Sufi orders 
the opportunity to act as grassroots organisations—in just the same way as 
Islamist movements do in other countries. Interestingly, in both cases it 
appears that those groups who are opposed to a failing regime can take 
advantage by carrying out social welfare programs. 

The overall crisis and the social dilemma constitute the background for 
the formalisation of 'traditional' social welfare structures. The shift from 
'traditional' to 'modern' social security systems as represented in the cases of 
shaykh Ibrahim SIdl and shaykh al-Ja c ali is aided by the failure of Islamist social 
and economic policies. Therefore, Islamist rule unintentionally seems to have 
accelerated the transformation process of the Sufi orders in the Sudan. 

49 A remark by al-Tayyib Muhammad al-Tayyib, an expert on Qur'anic schools and higher Is¬ 
lamic education in the Sudan, confirms that the khalwa run by shaykh Ibrahim SIdl does not fol¬ 
low the 'traditional' Sudanese pattern. According to al-Tayyib, the rehabilitation project for 
street children makes the khalwa "a real model of the connection of education with work" (rabt 
al-ta c lim hi y- c amak, al-Tayyib 1991, 233). 


Sufi Leaders and Social Welfare 


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Spittler (eds), Hamburg, 161-78. 

Bellion-Jourdan, Jerome (1997). "L'humanitaire et l'islamisme soudanais. Les organisations 
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mutation?" in Les institutions traditionnelles dans le monde arabe, Herve Bleuchot (ed.), 
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voies d'Allah, Alexandre Popovic/Gilles Veinstein (eds), Paris, 213-23. 

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Hospital"). N.p. [Khartoum], 

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al-Karsani, Awad al-Sid (1985). The Tijaniyya order in Western Sudan. A case study ofKhursi, An- 
Nahud and Al-Fasher. Ph.D. thesis. University of Khartoum. 

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in Muslim Identity and Social Change in Sub-Saharan Africa, Louis Brenner (ed.), Blooming¬ 
ton, 21-35. 

Rieger, Brigitte (1996). Uberleben ohne Staat: soziale Sicherung und die islamischen Parallelstrukturen in 
Agypten, Baden-Baden. 

Seesemann, Rudiger (1995). "Ba c d malamih al-taTIm al-dlnl wa 3 l-khalawl fi Darfur" ("Some 
aspects of religious education in Qur’anic schools in Darfur"), Dirdsdt Ifrlqlya (Khartoum), 
13, 93-116. 

— (1996). "Islam, Arbeit und Arbeitsethik: Die zawiya der Tijaniyya in el-Fasher (Sudan)", in 

Arbeit in Afrika, Kurt Beck Gerd Spittler (eds), Hamburg, 141-60. 

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cal and Social Science, 524, 66-78. 



Je veux etudier sans mendier 

The Campaign Against the Quhanic Schools in Senegal 

Roman Loimeier 


In 1992, the Senegalese government, UNICEF and a number of Islamic reform 
movements opened a national campaign against the Qur'anic schools in 
general and the so-called talibe mendiants in particular. In a special edition of 
both the national daily newspaper Le Soleil, and the most important news¬ 
paper of the Islamic reform movement, Wal Fadjri, reports of a number of 
drastic cases depicting the misery of the talibe, the disciples of the Qur'anic 
schools, as they are called in Senegal, were presented to the public. One of the 
cases mentioned was that of the daara, the Qur 'anic school, directed by Serigne 
Sulayman Seek in Kaolack. Bearing the title "Le mal-vivre au quotidien", this 
Qur'anic school, established in 1978 and numbering 157 talibe in 1992, was 
described with the following words: 

Le spectacle qui s'offre a la vue de ces petits talibes d'ont les ages oscillent entre 4 et 15 
ans, est simplement revoltant. Tout dans ce daara inspire desolation et tristesse. 1 

The public image of the Qur 'anic school has never been positive. French co¬ 
lonial literature is particularly full of disparaging statements towards them. 
Thus, Paul Marty, director of the Bureau des Affaires Musulmanes since 1912, 
concluded his report in 1917 on the Qur'anic schools in Senegal with the fol¬ 
lowing statement: 

L'ecole coranique, telle qu'elle fonctionne actuellement, est viciee de defauts de tous 
genres; personne ne les nie: enseignement purement confessionnel et purement me- 
canique qui n'exercice aucune influence sur le developpement intellectuel de l'enfant; 
disparition lente des civilisations locales, et surtout immuabilite traditionnelle qui fait 
que nos Senegalais s'islamisent en grande partie par la planchette des premiers siecles 
de l'hegire, et en restant la, a l'heure ou l'Orient lui-meme, berceau de l'lslam, se mod¬ 
ernise ... 2 

1 Le Soleil/Wal Fadjri, 8.4.1992,14. 

2 Marty 1917,109. 


]e veux etudier sans mendier 

Un enseignement d'une valeur pedagogique aussi minime ne saurait avoir une grande 
valeur intellectuelle, surtout si l'on songe que les textes appris par les enfants ne leur 
sont pas expliques, et qu'ils ne comprennent pas le sens des phrases qu'ils recitent ... 3 

However, not only French writers, colonial officials and Marxist historians, 
such as Samir Amin and Jean Suret-Canale, 3 4 depicted the marabuts and their 
schools in a bad light. African intellectuals, such as Lamin Sanneh also char¬ 
acterised the Qur'anic school as a place of punishment and meaningless 
learning. 5 Cheikh Hamidu Kane's novel L'aventure ambigue, that starts with a 
detailed description of the maltreatment of talibe Samba Diallo, is particularly 
known for its critical view of the Qur'anic school and the marabuts' brutal 
methods of teaching. Yet, although Qur'anic school education has been 
repeatedly characterised as having minimal pedagogical value, judgements 
such as these have to be regarded as severely biased. The outlook of both 
colonial officers as well as colonial scientists was usually connected with 
certain interests: generally, they were not interested in presenting the social 
role of the Qur 'anic school and its teaching methods objectively. Rather, the so- 
called "conquete morale", the "moral conquest" of the African colonies was 
foremost in their minds. Quite simply, in the eyes of the colonial functionaries, 
the Qur'anic school did not convey the skills that were appreciated by the 
colonial administration. 6 

The reform of existing educational concepts was, however, only osten¬ 
sibly the aim of the campaign of the Senegalese state, UNICEF and Islamic 
reformers as mentioned above. Their campaign was designed rather to 
gradually dissolve the autonomy of the religious scholars in a central aspect of 
their social influence, namely that of educating and socialising the Muslims. 
With the new concept of education as propagated by the reformers, the 
established religious scholars are increasingly going to lose their role as 
mediators of knowledge. The campaign against the Qur 'anic schools may thus 
be regarded as a step in a process of far-reaching social transformation within 
Islamic societies. 

The French "conquete morale" of an Islamic Society 

After the military conquest and political subjugation of its colonial territories 
France stated its additional intention to implement a cultural conquete morale of 
the colonies, an ideological programme that was also presented as a "mission 
civilisatrice". The Qur'anic schools that were unconditionally accepted by 
many French colonial officers as a central institution of Islamic society were 
thus, in the context of the "conquete morale", increasingly seen as an 

3 Marty 1917, 78 

4 See Magassouba 1985, 65. 

5 Sanneh 1997,123ff. 

6 Wilks 1975,166, and Harrison 1988, 59. 


Roman Loimeier 

annoying obstacle to development. 7 Teaching in the Qur'anic schools was 
discredited, sometimes even after the independence of the African colonies, as 
"dull and dumb memorisation without any sense and reason" or as a form of 
education "that defies all pedagogical technique". 8 

In the context of its "conquete morale", France initially tried to obtain 
complete control over the system of Islamic education. As early as the nine¬ 
teenth century, France thus began issuing bureaucratic regulations in order to 
restrict the existing Qur'anic schools. The first decree designed to control the 
Quhanic schools was published in the form of Arrete No. 96 sur les ecoles 
musulmanes on June 22nd, 1857, and ruled that all Quhanic schools were 
obliged to obtain an official licence. 9 In the following decades, between 1870 
and 1896, this decree was continuously expanded and modified. 

The most comprehensive effort to regulate the Qur'anic schools materi¬ 
alised in the form of another decree issued on July 15th, 1903, defining the 
conditions for running a Qur'anic school. Accordingly no marabut was per¬ 
mitted to direct a Qur 'anic school without a licence issued by the governor of 
the colony. In order to obtain such a licence, the marabut was obliged to 
produce certification of his status as a teacher or a qddi, as well as a certificate of 
good conduct and documentation testifying to his status as a French colonial 
subject. In addition, the marabut was obliged to undergo an examination as a 
Qur'anic school teacher either in the presence of the qddi of the Tribunal 
Musulman of St. Louis or the local official in charge of the administrative area 
concerned. The directors of the Qur'anic schools were asked to establish a 
register of their students in French and they were required to prove that their 
students also attended an official French school. Qur'anic schools comprising 
less than twenty students were to be closed down. Moreover, marabuts were 
prohibited from asking their disciples to collect alms. In 1903 a commission 
was established whose task it was to inspect the Qur 'anic schools. 10 The decree 
of 1903 was supplemented by a further decree of June 12th, 1906. This decree 
ruled that every marabut who also taught French for two hours a day was to 
be awarded with an annual subvention of 300 Francs. 11 Finally, in 1911, yet 
another decree was added to the apparatus of decrees stating that all able- 
bodied marabuts who nevertheless lived off the donations of their talibe were 
to be imprisoned for "vagabondage". 12 

However, these decrees, designed to regulate the Qur 'anic schools, were 
doomed to failure as the population as a whole was not willing to abandon the 
marabuts. French colonial bureaucracy quite simply lacked the power and 

7 See Harrison 1988. 

8 See Eickelman 1978, 490. 

9 Ndiaye 1985,114. 

10 Behrman 1970, 39-49. 

11 Ibid., 39. 

12 Ibid., 40. 


]e veux etudier sans mendier 

means to implement these decrees. 13 With regard to the 1903 and 1906 
decrees, the director of the Bureau des Affaires Musulmanes, Paul Marty, came to 
the following conclusions: 

La reglementation ci-dessus exposee bouleverse toutes les coutumes, traditions et desirs 
des indigenes, elle semble les gener a plaisir sans aucun profit pour notre action ad¬ 
ministrative ou politique. Aussi est-elle restee completement inoperante. 14 

In 1913 Marty thus proposed stopping the struggle against the Qur'anic 
schools: he maintained that it would be futile to try and destroy an institution 
that fulfilled the needs of the population and which posed no political threat to 
the colonial administration. 15 Incidentally, at that time, the colonial 
administration had already started to find ways of co-operating with the 
marabuts active in the production of groundnuts so as to improve the eco¬ 
nomic development of the colony. The colonial administration therefore ac¬ 
cepted Marty's proposal and terminated its efforts to eliminate the Qur'anic 
schools. Instead, these schools were to be gradually integrated into the colonial 
system of education. 16 Consequently, the decrees of 1903 and 1906, imposed in 
order to regulate the Qur'anic schools were in fact never implemented. As a 
result, the existing structures of the Qur 'anic schools, one of the most important 
foundations of marabut influence and authority, were to remain intact 
throughout the colonial period and, indeed, well into Senegal's period of 
independence. On account of the necessity to treat marabuts as allies, the 
bureaucratic measures originally introduced to eradicate the custom of giving 
alms and the habit of begging, particularly by the talibe, were never enforced. 

The Social Role of the Qur 3 anic Schools 

The campaign against the Qur'anic schools that was begun in the colonial 
period and continued in the postcolonial period ignored the fact that the ac¬ 
quirement of religious knowledge is culturally conditioned. 17 Qur'anic school 
attendance in West Africa was thus not seen by the Muslim population as a 
way to acquire knowledge but rather understood as a religious obligation. 18 It 
was neither the task nor aim of the Qur'anic school to impart an 
understanding of the Qur'an, God's word, to school children. Rather, the 
Qur'anic school taught the techniques of correct recitation of the holy text. 19 In 
the Islamic societies of West Africa, children were actually seen as Muslims in 

13 Ibid., 40. 

14 Marty 1917, 98. 

15 Bouche 1974,229. 

16 Ibid. 

17 Eickelman 1978, 481. 

18 Fortier 1997, 94. 

19 Goody 1975, 222. 


Roman Loimeier 

the making not yet in possession of the faculties of understanding ( fahm ) and 
of reason ( c aql ). Children were supposed to first memorise the holy text and to 
slowly and gradually mature into Muslim adults. In this system of 
socialisation the parents permitted Qur'anic school teachers to punish their 
children should they falsely recite the holy word of God: "A firm discipline in 
the course of learning the Qur'an was culturally regarded as an integral part 
of socialisation" 20 

In many Islamic societies religious knowledge is still the most highly 
appraised and "powerful" form of knowledge, and the Qur 'an is seen as the 
paradigm of this knowledge. 21 Intimate knowledge and the internalisation of 
the Qur'an is thus the necessary sine qua non in religious studies. 22 In this 
sense masters of Qur'anic schools consider questions raised with regard to the 
meaning and content of the holy text as absolutely inappropriate for children 
to ask. Such questions are reserved for higher studies in religious sciences. 
They are not to be asked by children but by adult Muslims whose faculty of 
understanding {fahm) and reason ( c aql ) is acknowledged. 

In the social setting of Islamic societies, the Qur'anic school is therefore 
less a place in which knowledge can be acquired but a school for life, namely, 
the socialisation of future Muslims. 23 The Qur'anic school should thus not be 
seen as disconnected from its social setting: education and socialisation were 
closely related. Hence, the Qur'anic school teachers had a central role in 
society: not only were they advisers and "professional experts" 24 and 
mediators of the Qur'an. Both due to their own socialisation as teachers and 
their connection with other scholars, as documented in their ijaza, they were 
also the last link in a long chain of scholars that ultimately connected them 
with the Prophet. Furthermore, the masters of the Qur 'anic schools were often 
the legal experts and Imams of their respective communities. In their sermons 
they admonished the people and pointed out what their social and religious 
obligations were. 25 Finally, in their schools another fundamental art was 
taught, an art highly esteemed in essentially oral societies, namely, that of 
holding speeches and of sacralizing them by quoting passages from the holy 
Qur'an from memory. 

In this way the masters of the Qur'anic schools slowly initiated the chil¬ 
dren into the adult world. The importance of the knowledge acquired in the 
Qur'anic school was made clear to the children in the form of social compe¬ 
tence and knowledge: they gradually became aware of the possibilities of 

20 Eickelman 1978, 494. 

21 Eickelman, 1978, 490. For the presentation of the Islamic system of education in Africa see 
Goody 1975, Wilks 1975, Eickelman 1978, Sanneh 1979, Cisse 1992, Fortier 1997, and, most re¬ 
cently, Reichmuth 1998; for Senegal see Samb 1972, Ndiaye 1994, Loimeier 2001 and Wiegel- 
mann 1998. 

22 Eickelman 1978, 489. 

23 Ibid., 494. 

24 Launay 1992,149. 

25 Ibid., 68-69. 


]e veux etudier sans mendier 

application of their memorised knowledge when accompanying their parents 
to public debates. At such events, they witnessed how skills acquired in the 
Qur'anic school could be implemented in a socially meaningful way, for 
instance, by giving weight to arguments with memorised quotations from the 
Qur 3 an: 

On such occasions they heard adults incorporate Quranic verses into particular 
contexts and gradually acquired the ability to do so themselves, as well as to recite 
specific sections of the Qur’an without regard for the order in which they had 
memorised it. Thus the measure of understanding was the ability to make appropriate 
practical reference to the memorised text, just as originality was shown in working 
Quranic references into novel but appropriate contexts. 26 

Should this form of social competence, however, become obsolete, as due to 
processes of modernisation it in fact has, the Qur 'anic school is bound to lose its 
social relevance: it is going to be regarded as an institution foreign to an 
Islamic society in transformation which increasingly emphasises values of a 
non-religious nature. 

New Schools, New Teachers 

In the colonial period, the Quar'anic schools only had to struggle against 
French colonial administration. Since the 1950s, however, Quar'anic schools 
have been confronted with a new, dangerous enemy: the Islamic reform 
movement and the Franco-Arab schools developed by the reformers. In his 
own youth, the founder of the Senegalese Islamic reform movement (the 
Ittihad ath-Thaqafi al-Islaml, the Islamic Cultural Union or Union Culturelle 
Musulmane), Cheikh Toure had experienced Quar'anic school education. He 
criticised this system of learning with the following words: "The marabut was 
regarded as a kind of God to whom nobody dared ask questions. The talibe 
behaved like a sheep vis-a-vis the marabut." 27 At the age of ten he had 
already rejected the system of marabutage: "I have never liked these talibe who 
demeaned themselves in front of the marabut." 28 

In the 1950s, the struggle of the Islamic reform movement against the 
marabuts and their Quar 'anic schools became a central topic of religio-political 
discourse in Senegal. The Islamic reform movement particularly accused the 
marabuts of collaborating with the French colonial power and held the es¬ 
tablished religious scholars responsible for Muslim inability to deal with the 
challenges of modernity. The Quar'anic schools were regarded by the 
essentially urban based reformers as a symbol of an obsolete social system. In 
the 1950s, the Islamic reform movement established the first modern Islamic 
schools. These new schools came to be called "Ecoles Franco-Arabes" as they 

26 Eickelman 1978, 495. 

27 he Musulman, 26,1989. 

28 he Musulman, 26,1989. 


Roman Loimeier 

started to include subjects such as French in their syllabus. They adopted 
modern pedagogical principles, abolished talibe begging and the "mechanical 
memorisation" of the Qur'an. In place of these, they introduced new subjects 
such as history, mathematics, French, sports, history, geography and 
grammar, and also started to teach subjects such as hadith, fiqh and kalam, that 
had hitherto been restricted to c z7m-studies. Also, the methods of learning in 
the new schools were radically different from those of the Quar'anic schools: 
techniques of memorisation were no longer trained and, consequently, texts 
were no longer recited in old fashioned Arabic from memory, but rather read 
from textbooks written in modern standard Arabic. 29 

From the outset of Senegalese independence, the government, under 
President Senghor recognised the importance of Islamic education and the 
possibilities of a reformed Islamic school system. In 1960, in state run schools 
Arabic was thus introduced as an optional subject 30 and in 1963 Arabic was 
admitted as a "classical language" in the secondary schools alongside Latin 
and Greek. 31 When a plan for national development was in the process of 
being drawn up in 1960, research was to reveal that in each village, up to 4-5 
per cent, in the Fleuve region (St. Louis) even 25 per cent of the rural popu¬ 
lation were literate in Arabic. 32 

When considering the development of the Senegalese educational sys¬ 
tem in the postcolonial period, one must not overlook the fact that the per¬ 
centage of school attendance has increased from 16 to 48 per cent between 1960 
and 1992. At the same time, the number of pupils at the intermediate level of 
education, the so-called enseignement moyen, has risen to a percentage of 15.8, 
whereas the number of students in the enseignement secondaire, higher 
education, has increased to a percentage of 8.8 of all students. 33 Nevertheless, 
the arabophone sector of education, at least at the pre-school and primary 
school level, still attracts more children than the state school sector. This 
observation is valid not only in the rural areas but also in the major cities of the 
country, such as St. Louis. Here, in 1991, 24,304 children were registered as 
pupils of 222 Quar 'anic schools, whereas the number of pupils attending one 
of the 37 state schools only amounted to 21,462 children. 34 

The persistent demand for arabophone religious education in the 
Quar'anic schools was explained with a multitude of reasons: the Arab lan¬ 
guage would thus constitute part of Senegal's "patrimoine islamique"; Arabic 
had originally even been recognised by the colonial administration as its 
language of communication and administration. Thus, the first French paper 
in St. Louis, Le Manuel de St. Louis, had been published in Arabic. However, 

29 Launay 1992, 94-95. 

30 Ndiaye 1985, 214. 

31 Coulon 1983, 99. 

32 Sylla 1986,154. 

33 Wiegelmann 1994,803. 

34 Wiegelmann 1994, 808. 


]e veux etudier sans mendier 

when France came to realise that the French language had great difficulties in 
prevailing over the widespread use of Arabic, the colonial administration 
started to restrict the use of Arabic. As a result of these restrictions, solidarity 
with the Arabic language grew and Arabic came to be increasingly 
understood as the symbol of Muslim identity in the colonial situation, 
particularly in the context of the ongoing French efforts to achieve a "conquete 
morale" of their colonies. There has been growing demand among the 
population for independent access to the sources of their faith, which was not 
controlled or channelled by marabuts; the Arabic language would also prove 
to be of immediate interest in the economic relations with the Arab countries 
and students returning from their studies in such Arab countries began to 
introduce improved methods of teaching Arabic. 35 

In the 1970s, the second generation of the Islamic reformers, as repre¬ 
sented by a number of new organisations such as the jama c at c lbad ar-Rahman 
(The Association of the Servants of God), finally realised that the radical 
criticism which had been directed against the marabuts since the 1950s by 
Cheikh Toure's Ittihad ath-Thaqafi al-Islami was not supported by the majority 
of the population. The young reformers began concentrating their efforts on 
the expansion of the modern Islamic schools thereby improving their support 
among the population: knowledge was the only capital of the reformers. 36 

Efforts by the Islamic reform movement to expand the reformed Islamic 
school system were considerably increased in the 1980s. Throughout Senegal, 
in urban centres as well as in rural areas, new Franco-Arab schools were 
established by the reformers. Thus, a second sector of modern education was 
evolving. The Islamic reform movement saw these modern Islamic schools, 
however, not only as an alternative way of education as far as the Quar'anic 
schools of the marabuts were concerned, but also as an alternative to the state 
controlled secular and francophone schools. By establishing their new schools, 
the Islamic reformers managed to provide jobs for students who had gone to 
Arab countries to study and who, upon return to Senegal, had not been 
integrated into the civil service. The new Franco-Arab schools also provided a 
means to improve the social status for a considerable number of children and 
students who had been hitherto rejected by the state schools and who had 
actually been forced to stop their education. By switching over to a Franco- 
Arab school these children and students had the opportunity to complete their 
education. During the 1980s, the Islamic reform movement was thus set to 
considerably increase its social basis and influence especially in the urban 
areas. 37 

35 Interviews with c Abd al-Wahhab Boly Ndao, Lecturer at the Departement des Langues et Civili¬ 
sations Germaniques of the University of Dakar (2.4.1992), Iba Der Thiam, Minister of National 
Education 1983-1988 (21.3.1992), Mamadou Ndiaye, Director of the Departement de VArabe of 
the University of Dakar (13.4.1993) and Cheikh Toure, Founder of the Ittihad ath-Thaqafi al- 
Islami, ITI (13.4.1992). 

36 Coulon 1981, 262. 

37 See Loimeier 2001. 


Roman Loimeier 

In the sphere of modern Islamic education, the dynamics of the Islamic 
reform movement has forced the marabuts to generate ideas of their own in 
order not to lose their clientele to the reformers. As a consequence, since the 
early 1980s, the number of Franco-Arab schools established by marabuts has 
increased enormously and, by the late 1980s, even towns such as Touba, the 
capital of the Muridlya Sufi brotherhood, already had a number of modern 
Islamic schools. 38 

Among the best known of these new Franco-Arab schools run by 
marabuts was the Institut al-Azhar in Ndame, founded in 1974 by Shaykh 
Muhammad Murtada Mbacke. By 1989, this school had established affiliate 
institutions in Bembey, Kaolack, St. Louis, Thies and Bignona and its student 
population had increased to 39,627. 39 Other schools established by marabuts 
were the Institut d'Etudes Islamicjues de Diourbel, established as early as 1956 
by Cheikh Ahmad Mbacke, with affiliate institutions in Dakar, Louga, 
Kaolack and Mekhe which, together, numbered a total of 4,090 students; the 
Lycee Tafsir Ahmad Bd, founded in 1968 by the Federation des Associations Is- 
lamiques du Senegal (FAIS), counting 395 students in 1989; the Institut Islamique 
Cheikh Abdallah Niass in Kaolack, founded by Ibrahim Niass in 1968. 40 Since 
the late 1970s, this school has been transformed by Ibrahim Niass' successor, 
Cheikh Hassan Cisse, to become a model school counting 512 students in 1992. 
The student population included a considerable number of Nigerians, 
Ghanaians, Gambians and even 60 Afro-American Muslims. 41 

A typical example of marabut involvement in the sphere of education 
was the Institut Islamique Superieur al-Hanafiyatou in Louga founded in the 
1980s by Shaykh c Abbas Sail, a marabut connected to the Tijanlya Sufi broth¬ 
erhood. This school counted about 700 students in 1989. It had 18 classes, a 
boarding school, its own mosque, accommodation facilities for guests, an 
infirmary and apartments for its teachers. 42 Teaching at primary level started 
in 1986 and was planned to continue up to secondary level. The curriculum of 
the school concentrated on languages, agricultural training and theology. 43 

The Franco-Arab school system in Senegal was able to assert itself as an 
alternative to the francophone state schools since many parents, particularly in 
the rural areas, refused to send their children to the state schools as those were 
seen as either secular or Christian. Parents were often unable to afford the 
comparatively high school fees, the school uniforms, teaching materials, 
transport and food. Finally, many parents perceived francophone education as 
being at odds with their own social reality. Consequently, they preferred to 
keep their children at home where were able to carry out useful household 

38 Wal Fadjri 169, 23.6.1989. 

39 Mbacke 1989, 88. 

40 Coulon 1979, 28. 

41 Wal Fadjri, 308,16.4.1992. 

42 Mbacke 1989, 89. 

43 he Soldi, 19.10.1987. 


]e veux etudier sans mendier 

and agricultural chores. Where parents sent their children to school at all they 
would send them to the Quar'anic school of the local marabut 44 

In some rural areas, this "refus de l'ecole", 45 or rejection of the state 
schools, was quite remarkable. Especially in the Muridlya-dominated region 
of Diourbel a number of cases had been documented in which the state had 
opened new schools subsequently boycotted by the population. When these 
schools were to be closed by the state, the respective local communities ap¬ 
proached the administration and asked them to reopen them as Arab 
schools. 46 

A recent study by Wiegelmann has also shown that education in at least 
some of the modern Franco-Arab schools is quite capable of competing with 
the state primary schools: tests simultaneously carried out in Franco-Arab 
schools, state schools and private schools showed that Franco-Arab school 
children were quite capable of competing with students in both state and 
private schools. 47 Also, the rate of Arabic literacy in the rural areas in the age- 
group of men over 40 continued to be higher than French literacy in the 
1990s. 48 Moreover, research carried out by Wiegelmann and Naumann in the 
Diourbel region concluded that the assumption, that the majority of Quar 'anic 
school children did not learn anything, not even how to read and write, could 
not be maintained: Wiegelmann and Naumann show that, after two to four 
years of learning, most disciples of the Quar'anic schools possess a good 
command over basic reading abilities. The survey showed that more than 60 
per cent of the children attending a Quar 'anic school in the research area also 
acquired writing skills. 49 

Quar'anic schools and their marabuts have so far managed to survive in 
urban areas such as Dakar: firstly, Quar 'anic schools often serve as institutions 
which provide a sort of rudimentary home to children from rural areas sent to 
the cities by their parents in the hope that, under the tutelage of a trusted 
marabut, they will find a job in the city. Secondly, quite a few urban middle 
and upper class families continue to value the Quar'anic school education as a 
supplement to the predominantly secular oriented education offered by state 
schools. These families usually see the Quar'anic school less as a way of ac¬ 
quiring "knowledge" than as a "school for life". 50 Many well-off urban 
families even privately employ a marabut to teach their children the Qur'an. 

44 See Wiegelmann 1994 and Wiegelmann 1998. 

45 Khayar 1976,13. 

46 Interview with Mohamed Fadel Dia, General Secretary of the Conference des ministres de 
I’education des pays ayant en commun I'usage du franqais (1.4.1991), for an extensive discussion of 
the development of the Senegalese state school system and the religious private schools see 
Wiegelmann 1998. 

47 Wiegelmann 1998, 325 and 338ff. 

48 Wiegelmann 1998,125-26. 

49 Wiegelmann and Naumann 1997, 279. 

50 Interview with Khadiye Fall, Lecturer at the Departement des Langues et Civilisations Ger- 
maniques, University of Dakar (3.2.1991). 


Roman Loimeier 

Yet, despite the support Quar'anic schools enjoyed among the Senegal¬ 
ese population and despite the repeated vows of the Senegalese government 
to support the development of the Islamic educational system, the Quar'anic 
school system was to stagnate after independence. This stagnation was not 
only due to the lack of a uniform curriculum or chronic lack of money. A major 
feature providing an explanation for the stagnation of the Quar'anic schools 
was the refusal, on the behalf of the marabuts, to take part in a any state 
sponsored development programmes: they were afraid that such a state 
sponsored programme to reform Quar'anic schools would necessarily lead to 
greater government control. As control of Quar 'anic schools had already been 
a central feature in the French colonial period, any form of state intervention 
in the sphere of Islamic education was flatly rejected by the marabuts. 

In the 1960s and 1970s, the marabuts in their capacity as groundnut 
producers and political intermediaries between the population and the ruling 
party, were still powerful enough to prevent any bureaucratic intervention in 
their sphere of social influence. Thus, as the state needed the marabuts as a 
central pillar of political stability, it refrained from any attempt to reform the 
Quar'anic schools until the 1980s. Only in 1987, at a national conference 
organised by the Minister for National Education, Iba Der Thiam, was the 
reorganisation of the Islamic education system discussed. In the same year, a 
pilot curriculum for Quar'anic schools was published that, in addition to 
teaching the Qur'an (24 hours per week), also scheduled classes in 
reading / writing (21/2 hours per week), mathematics (2 hours), handicrafts (1 
hour) and civil education (1/2 hour). This curriculum was adopted by two 
Quar'anic schools in Malika (near Dakar) and Latmengue (near Kaolack). 
These were seen as models for the improvement of the Quar'anic school 
system. 51 

The workgroup set up in 1987 to develop a uniform curriculum for the 
Franco-Arab schools was able to present the results of its work in 1990. Under 
the chairmanship of Dr. Thierno Ka, professor of Islamic studies at the IF AN 
(Institut Fondamental d'Afrique Noire) and Mufattish c Amm (General Inspector) 
of the Ministry of National Education, a total of 45 scholars, most of them 
Arabic teachers, developed a six year curriculum for the tanzim at-ta c lim al- 
c arabi al-hurr, the system of "free Arabic education", structured in the 
following way: 52 

51 Prinz 1991, 26, and Prinz 1996, 99. 

52 See Ka 1990, 6,13,18, 38. 


]e veux etudier sans mendier 



. class 

Number of teaching units per week per class 

2. class 3. class 4. class 5. class 6. 


1. Qur’an 







2. hadith 














4. tauhld 

5. ethics-hygiene-civil 
education (akhldq wa-t-tarbiya 







as-sihhlya wa-l-madanlya) 

6. conversation 














7. reading 







8. writing 







9. learning exercises 







10. mathematics 







11. arts 







12. sports 







13. as-sira an-nabawiya 







14. expression ( ta c blr) 







15. grammar (nahw/sarf) 







16. history/geography 







17. French 







18. dictation ( al-ima”) 







19. other 







20. history of Islam 







21. composition (al-inshcP) 







22. breaks 














Teaching the Qur'an was divided into the following steps: 

1. class: al-Fatiha (1.), an-nas (114.) to al-bayyina (98.). 

2. class: al-qadr (97.) to al-d'ld (87.). 

3. class: at-tdriq (86.) to an-naba 0 (78.). 

4. class: al-mursaldt (77.) toal-jinn (72.). 

5. class: niih (71.) to at-talaq (65.). 

6. class: at-taghabun (64.) to al-mujadalah (58.). 

Thus, by the end of the sixth class a tenth of the Qur 'an was supposed to have 
been learned. The new Franco-Arab curriculum presented far less demands 
on the students than the established Quar'anic schools where the entire 
Qur'an was memorised over the course of three to five years. Yet, while 
Quar'anic schools exclusively concentrated on the memorisation of the 
Qur'an, the new curriculum of the Franco-Arab schools was designed for the 
teaching of 21 different subjects in this way ensuring greater general knowl¬ 
edge. 53 

53 Ka 1990, 6ff. 


Roman Loimeier 

Combined with the experience of studying at universities in Arab 
countries, the new type of Franco-Arab schools was also to produce a new type 
of scholar: the marabut, who through his isnad and his ijdza was connected to 
traditions of teaching going back to the Prophet himself and to the revelation 
of the holy word of God, was replaced by the "professor", the ustadh, who 
received his education at a Franco-Arab school in Senegal and at a university 
in Egypt, Algeria or Saudi Arabia. Yet, even in Saudi Arabia, these 
institutions of learning were organised along the lines of western and 
inherently secular systems of education. 54 When returning to their own 
countries these professors of Arabic and Islamic studies not only revolution¬ 
ised the methods and contents of teaching but also started to influence the 
form of public Islamic discourse. 

Thus, in the context of a political speech in Thies on February 13th, 1993, 
the leader of the Da D irat al-Mustarshidin wa-l-Mustarshidat (The Union of 
Rightly Guided Men and Women), an urban reform movement connected 
with the Tijaniya sufi-brotherhood, Serigne Mustafa Sy attacked the Senegal¬ 
ese government with hitherto unknown force and appealed to his followers to 
vote for the opposition candidate in the forthcoming presidential elections, 
Abdoulaye Wade. In his speech, Moustapha Sy mixed different levels of 
discourse in a masterly fashion: he addressed the general public in the 
national language of Wolof, by inserting Arabic quotations he sought to 
sanction his discourse on a religio-dogmatic level, and, by means of far-flung 
excursions into world history and world politics in French attempted to 
communicate his world view to his audience. He also appeared in an outfit 
somewhat unusual for the typical public appearance of a marabut: his attire 
was that of an urban youth, namely, tight trousers and leather jacket. He even 
justified this appearance with a quotation from the Qur 'an: 

Pardonnez-moi! Si je suis vetu comme je le suis aujourd'hui c'est parce que je suis en 
campagne electorate. Comme les hommes politiques nous ont emprunte nos grands 
boubous, nos chales, nos chapeaux, nos Cannes, nos versets du Coran et nos hadiths, 
moi aussi je leur emprunte leur pantalon, leur veste, leur casquette: « Ces jours 
(heureux et malheureux), nous les faisons alterner parmi les hommes ». Qui peut en 
decider autrement? Je les taquine tout simplement. Beni soit le Createurl^S 

The Campaign Against the QuaUanic Schools 
and the talibe mendiants 

The development of a Franco-Arab system of education was not only a major 
goal of the Islamic reformers but also of the Senegalese state. By gradually 
eliminating the Quar'anic schools the state sought to obtain greater influence 
in a social sphere dominated by the marabuts. The Senegalese government 

54 Launay 1992, 98. 

55 Kane and Villalon 1995,130. 


]e veux etudier sans mendier 

also hoped to reach groups of the population that had managed to escape 
direct state control with respect to education. 56 The dominant position of the 
Quar 3 anic schools in rural areas was regarded by both the Senegalese state 
and Islamic reformers as an impediment to the improvement of standards of 
teaching of the Quar'anic schools seen by both parties as deficient. In the 1980s 
and 1990s, many Quar'anic schools were still characterised by rudimentary 
conditions of learning: the wooden slate was used and teaching was marked 
by rigid discipline. In addition, many Quar 'anic schools, particularly in urban 
areas, had two different types of talibe: day talibe who came from the 
immediate neighbourhood of the school and boarding pupils entrusted by 
their parents, usually living in distant rural areas, to marabuts in the cities. 
Most of the talibe mendiants were recruited from this second type of talibe. 57 

On account of the on-going economic crisis in Senegal, in the 1990s, 
marabuts were no longer in a position to provide proper housing, food and 
care for the talibe entrusted to them. As a social institution they were to become 
increasingly redundant. Also, financial support from parents could not be 
relied upon despite occasional donations and zatef-payments for the subsidy 
and improvement of their comparatively impoverished conditions. The 
marabuts were forced to send their talibe into the streets to beg. Yet, despite 
begging, the marabuts were frequently unable to properly house, feed and 
clothe their talibe or even provide them with medical care. As a consequence 
the talibe often suffered from diseases of the skin and eyes as well as from 
malnutrition. 58 Also, the talibe were often used by the marabuts for begging 
purposes so as to ensure that the marabuts' personal needs were met. Many 
urban marabuts continue to use their talibe as a source of income, legitimising 
begging as a means of education. 59 

In fact, at least in West African Islamic societies, talibe begging practices 
have been regarded as legitimate as long as begging was confined to the 
collection of alms in front of the mosques on Fridays. This form of begging was 
accepted as a way of fulfilling the religious duty of paying z akdt to the poor and 
needy. In modern Senegalese cities, however, begging has turned into a full¬ 
time occupation among the talibe mendiants. Instead of learning, many talibe, 
usually small children, often presenting a rather neglected impression, drift 
around city streets, a habit tolerated or even expressly authorised by the 
marabut, begging for food and money while reciting haphazard selections of 
verses from the Qur'an. Sometimes they form street gangs and commit acts of 
petty crime. In a recent estimation from 1995 the Senegalese government and 
UNICEF estimated that the number of these talibe mendiants ranged from 50- 
100,000. The non-governmental organisation ENDA ( Entente Nationale pour le 

56 Coulon 1983,105. 

57 Wiegelmann and Naumann 1997, 280. 

58 Ibid., 281. 

59 Wiegelmann and Naumann 1997, 283. 


Roman Loimeier 

Developpement et I'Assistence) estimated that in 1992, their number was as high 
as 150,000 children. 60 

Both secular state and Islamic reformers were of the opinion that this 
system of marabutage could only be fought by offering alternative ways of 
education. The talibe mendiants, already under attack by the colonial admini¬ 
stration were, thus, again to become centre of public interest in the 1990s: as a 
visible sign of the decay of the Quar'anic school system, the talibe mendiants 
were used as a pretext for attacking the entire structure of established Islamic 
education. However, unlike the criticism of talibe mendiants, exploitation in 
colonial times, the initial source of criticism derived from Islamic reformers 
and not from the government. The Senegalese government, until the 
assumption of power by President Diouf in 1981, did not dare publicly criticise 
the powerful marabuts on whose support the stability of the regime largely 
depended. On the other hand, the first seminars on the Quar'anic school 
system were held at the Institut Islamic/ue de Dakar, the centre of the reformist 
groups, as early as the mid-1970s. The proposals put forward by the Islamic 
reformers for improving the situation of the talibe were not registered by the 
government at that time. 61 

It was only in the early 1990s that criticism of the Quar'anic schools in¬ 
creased, more especially during the campaign initiated by UNICEF and the 
Senegalese state mentioned above, designed as it was to improve the protec¬ 
tion of children's rights. In the form of an international development pro¬ 
gramme this campaign was publicly implemented on March 31st, 1992. It was 
entitled "The international convention for the preservation of children's 
rights". In Senegal, the campaign drew special support from the technocratic 
elite which had significantly increased its political power under President 
Diouf, as well as from a number of Islamic reform groups. As a Muslim 
president, with strong connections to the Tijanlya Sufi brotherhood, Diouf was 
in a better position than his Catholic predecessor Senghor as far as a critique of 
established social structures such as the Quar'anic school system was 
concerned. In cooperation with UNICEF, a national programme was pub¬ 
lished in 1992 designed to improve the living conditions of children "en 
situation particulierement difficile". 62 The programme was to span a five year 
period (1992-96) and was specifically directed towards the "rehabilitation des 
droits des talibes". The programme also provided for the marabuts in the form 
of technical as well as financial support with which they were to improve their 
schools or the economic status of the talibe, for instance in the form of school 
gardens. Teaching was to be modernised and literacy courses were to be 
given. The overall aim was to achieve integration of the existing QuaCanic 
schools into new communitarian structures of education. A precondition for 

60 Ibid., 273. 

61 Ibid., 284. 

62 Wiegelmann and Naumann 1997, 286. 


]e veux etudier sans mendier 

joining the programme was that the marabuts declare their willingness to stop 
talibe begging and to dispense with corporal punishment. 63 

The campaign focussed on the rural milieus, at the very centre of 
marabut power. With regard to the Senegalese public, the campaign was 
accompanied by a national information programme broadcast on national 
radio, TV and featured in national newspapers. The purpose here was to sen¬ 
sitise the population to the precarious situation of the talibe attending 
Quar'anic schools. The initial results indicated that the campaign met with 
some resistance from the marabuts. At first, only a few well known Quar 'anic 
schools were awarded funds, such as Hassan Cisse's school in Kaolack or the 
school at Malika near Dakar, both mentioned above. 64 In addition, many 
marabuts interpreted the campaign for talibe mendiant rehabilitation as an 
attempt to impose western, secular concepts of education and socialisation on 
the Quar'anic schools. As a consequence, by 1996, the programme for the 
rehabilitation of the Quar 'anic schools was only to have affected 20,000 talibe . 65 

The true direction of the rehabilitation campaign can be read in the spe¬ 
cial edition of the national newspaper Le Soleil and in the biggest newspaper 
of the Islamic reformers, Wal Fadjri, published on April 8th, 1992. Under the 
title Les enfants d'abord — la longue marche des talibes a number of articles 
entitled, for instance, Thies—au carrefour de la mendicite, Saute: une note salee, Le 
mal-vivre an quotidien, presented talibe living conditions in the most sombre of 
details: children were abandoned by their parents and left to the un¬ 
scrupulous care of marabuts in the big cities. There they were forced, under 
unspeakable living conditions, to beg for their masters who had found in their 
talibe a moyen confortable de gagner leur i >ze. 66 Thus, the characterisation of the 
talibe living conditions in the Quar'anic schools remarkably resembles the 
description of the Quar 'anic schools known in colonial times. In the article Etre 
talibe, for instance, Ousseynou Gueye of the Islamist paper Wal Fadjri, 
characterises the living conditions of the talibe as such: 

Le talibe vit dans des conditions tres precaires. A «l'age de l'innocence » il voit les 
meilleures annees de sa vie sacrifices. II a generalement entre 5 et 15 ans. La misere et la 
souffrance demeurent son lot quotidien et il passe le plus clair de son temps a mendier 
pour le compte du marabout. ... Dans tous les domaines, le talibe est a plaindre. Il vit 
dans des locaux de fortune oil il couche par terre. Dans le meilleur des cas, il dort sur 
une natte. Mais c'est rare. Dans beaucoup de daaras que nous avons visites a Saint- 
Louis, Aere Lao et Yeumbeul, des cartons servent de matelas. Le talibe partage ses lieux 
d'habitation avec les puces, les cafards et toutes sortes de petites bestioles. ... Quand 
l'Etat subventionne le daara, n'allez pas croire que cela va se repercuter sur la vie du 
talibe. Au contraire, la somme d'argent, les vivres et vetements alloues aux daaras ser¬ 
vent le plus souvent pour la nourriture de sa famille. ... Dans le daara quand le talibe 

63 Ibid., 287. 

64 Ibid., 288. 

65 Wiegelmann 1998,105. 

66 Le Soleil/Wal Fadjri, 8.4.1992,11. 


Roman Loimeier 

croupit dans la misere, le marabout et sa famille peuvent vivre a cote une situation des 
plus aisees. ...6 7 

The presentation of the misery in the Quar'anic schools, the desperate living 
conditions of the talibe and the cynical attitudes of the marabuts are illustrated 
by a number of crude cases of pauperisation in Quar'anic schools such as the 
daara of Serigne Suleyman Seek as already mentioned. This establishment, 
located in Kaolack, was led by a handicapped marabut who was no longer 
able to provide any sort of social assistance and care for his talibe. This 
documentation of misery contrasts with a few positive cases such as the school 
of Hassan Cisse in Kaolack. However, such an example merely highlights the 
misery of the other Quar'anic schools. The rationale behind this 
propagandistic presentation was clear: the secular state attempted to create a 
setting that would legitimise intervention in the sphere of the marabuts' social 
influence. Under the pretext that marabuts were incapable of properly 
running their own schools, this policy would consequently lead to the mar¬ 
ginalisation of the marabuts. In an interview on April, 8th, 1992, the Minister 
for National Education, Asane Diop, declared: 

Ce projet vise essentiellement a soutenir les marabouts dans l'education des talibes et 
quand nous disons soutenir les marabouts, cela signifie les aider a mettre les talibes dans 
des conditions d'etudes correctes qui pouissent garantir une bonne formation pour le 
Coran, mais egalement une formation, pour qu'ils pouissent, apres leurs etudes cora- 
niques, etre prets a affronter la societe en ayant deja dans leurs bagages une formation 
pratique pour avoir un metier.® 

Again, as was the case during the colonial period, the type of socialisation 
cultivated by the Quar'anic schools was declared irrelevant to the needs of 
modern society which demanded training in practical skills enabling Muslim 
children to confront the challenges of modern life. However, in consideration 
of the dire living conditions of many talibe, in the urban areas in particular, the 
campaign of the Senegalese government against the most outstanding abuses 
of Quar 'anic school education, for the first time, had a chance to bring about 
some real change as far as the established structures of Islamic education were 


Secular state and global development agencies such as UNICEF, as well as 
Islamic reformers were united in their attempt to dissolve the existing Islamic 
system of socialisation maintained by the Quar 'anic schools. They were all of 
the opinion that the autonomy of the Quar 'anic school as a central institution of 
Islamic society had to be destroyed and the social and political influence of the 

67 Le Soleil/Wal Fadjri, 8.4.1992,13. 

68 Interview with Assane Diop, Minister for Sante publique et action sociale, published in Le 
Soleil/Wal Fadjri, 8.4.1992,12. 


]e veux etudier sans mendier 

marabuts, the established religious scholars, must be eliminated. So, the attack 
on the Quar'anic school may be seen as an attack on the very foundations of 
Islamic society and, in this sense may be interpreted as a further step towards 
the "disenchantment of the world" 69 by the secular state and the Islamic 
reformers: in the reformed Islamic schools, education is no longer seen as a 
vehicle for conveying social and moral values but as a way of imparting 
practical skills "relevant" in a modern, increasingly individualistic and de- 
sacralised society. The only difference between state schools and Franco-Arab 
schools is that in the latter, teaching is conducted in Arabic instead of in French 
or in English and that children do get basic notions of established Islamic 
subjects such as kalam, hadlth and fiqh. Again, Arabic is no longer seen as a 
sacred language reserved for scholarly use. It is also regarded as a practical 
tool that might enhance employment prospects in Arab countries. 70 Finally, 
the purpose of the Islamic reform movement's schools is not to initiate children 
into adult life. They are rather oriented towards materialistic objectives: the 
students of these schools are supposed to develop "marketable skills". 71 

The disenchantment of Islamic societies is thus shown by the crisis of the 
Quar'anic school. This crisis is strengthened by the general economic malaise 
which has aggravated the situation in many Quar'anic schools and made 
them vulnerable to criticism. The transformation of the role of religious 
knowledge and the role of the Quar'anic schools which taught mnemonic 
domination of sacred knowledge through the mediation of a respected 
religious authority, into a new form of education that can be consulted in 
handbooks at any time and which can be interpreted individually without the 
mediation of a religious expert, is a sign of significant social change. The 
consequences of this process of change are that Quar'anic schools and religious 
scholars have ceased to be the only institutions for mediating religious 
knowledge. Today, they have to compete with Islamist reformist schools as 
well as secular state schools. With their modern education, the teachers of these 
new schools also claim the right to interpret the holy texts: 

The carriers of religious knowledge will increasingly be anyone who can claim a strong 
Islamic commitment; freed from mnemonic domination, religious knowledge can in¬ 
creasingly be delineated and interpreted in a more abstract and flexible fashion. A long 
apprenticeship under an established man of learning is no longer a prerequisite to le¬ 
gitimize one's own religious knowledge. 72 

Therefore, the attack on the Quar'anic schools and the social structures con¬ 
nected with them, the development of new models of education and new 
teaching methods and the claims connected with these, namely, individual¬ 
istic access to and interpretation of the holy texts, as well as the de-sacralisation 
of learning is not only a direct attack on the c ulama > as preservers and 

69 Weber 1920/88, 94-95. 

70 Launay 1992, 93. 

71 Ibid., 94. 

72 Eickelman 1978, 512. 


Roman Loimeier 

mediators of sacred knowledge but also represents a paradigmatic change in 
Islamic societies—at least as far as their self-image as an Islamic society and 
their conception of socialisation is concerned. In this process of change the 
Quar’anic school is perhaps not going to totally disappear but its role and 
character are certainly going to be transformed. 



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A Survey of Islamic Non-Governmental 
Organisations in Accra 

Sulemana Mu muni 

Ghana has witnessed an upsurge in organisations, associations and clubs in 
recent times. Whilst the orientations of some of these bodies are socio-eco¬ 
nomic, some are politico-religious and others too are environmental. Within 
the Muslim community in Ghana in general and Accra in particular, religion 
has played the key role. Some of the Islamic organisations in Accra are of 
ethnic origin whilst others have a clear doctrinal background. However, they 
all have similar aspirations as deduced from their aims and objectives, being 
the furtherance and well-being of the Muslim population. A survey conducted 
at the Deeds Registry in Accra, responsible for the registration of the trustees 
of non-profit making organisations revealed that over sixty Islamic 
organisations are registered. In addition, there are quite a number of organi¬ 
sations that have not been registered with the Deeds Registry. Due to lack of 
information on most of these organisations, I will concentrate on the formation 
of migrant and indigenous organisations, women associations and on the 
eight Islamic councils that have operated in Ghana since independence. 

The Composition of the Muslim Community in Accra 

Although belief and observance of Islam bound Muslims into a brotherhood, 
Muslims in Accra do not form a homogeneous group. Accra, which has been 
the political and administrative capital of the country since 1877, has today a 
population of about 1.5 million among which Muslims constitute about eleven 
per cent. Accra is associated with three major religious traditions, which are 
the Ga Traditional Religion, Christianity and Islam. The origins of the Muslim 
community in Accra are clearly different at least geographically and 
ethnically. As Muslims, they do not function as an amorphous group but are 
organised along certain lines to satisfy the religious, social, economic and 
political needs. Two major modes of organisation stand out as the earliest 
modes of Muslim organisation in Accra, namely organisation along ethnic 
lines and organisation along doctrinal lines. The ethnic organisation of 
Muslims in the Accra metropolis can be classified into migrant Muslim settlers 
and indigenous Ga Muslims. The migrant Muslims can again be sub-divided 
into three classes: 'alien' African migrants, national migrants and non-African 
migrants. It is significant to note that the migrants constitute the majority in 


A Survey of Islamic Non-Governmental Organisations in Accra 

the Accra Muslim community. They have also monopolised the secular and 
spiritual leadership, particularly the alien African migrants 


The organisation of Accra Muslims along ethnic lines brought about ethnic 
leadership referred to as Muslim Chiefs (Headmen). Migrant Muslims are also 
noted for settling into distinct wards or sections of geographically located 
communities. Muslim sections or enclaves of Accra and elsewhere on the coast 
are referred to as zongo, a Hausa word which means a segregated quarter at 
the periphery of towns and cities. However, according to Dinan, in Ghana the 
word is used to refer to the residentially segregated quarters where strangers, 
especially Muslims, settle. 1 The Muslims in Accra always moved to the 
suburbs of the growing Accra, founding new ones and leaving behind 
numerous settler and Hausa names. The reasons for the movements of the 
Muslim quarters were mainly due to the environmental hazards caused by 
their cattle. However, according to Opoku, who investigated the fast 
development of Madinah from merely farmland in the 1950s into today's 
'mixed' suburb with residents of various ethnic groups, the lack of amenities 
and thus the cheapness of the rent was another reason which made estab¬ 
lishment of Muslim settlements on the outskirts of the town "attractive" 2 

Zongo in Accra can be appropriately described as a community within a 
community. Zongo is not a new phenomenon in Islam in West Africa. Clarke 
quoting Arab writers illustrates that already during the eleventh century 
Muslim merchants had built their own quarters within Koumbi-Saleh, the 
capital of ancient Ghana. Koumbi-Saleh was made up of two quarters, one of 
which was inhabited by the Muslims. The Muslim quarter was a big town 
with twelve mosques, one of which was for public prayers on Friday. Muslim 
lawyers and academics resided there. The other quarter, the royal town was 
situated six miles away where the indigenous people and their chief lived. 3 

Naino Iddris, the first Hausa migrant to settle in Accra, established the 
first zongo in Accra in Ussher Town referred to as Zongo Mallam in 1850. 
Zongo Mallam expanded to Okaishie and the current General Post Office 
Square. Today, the old part of Zongo Mallam is known as Cowlane. Naino 
became the first chief of Zongo Mallam and Imam of Accra. By 1908, the 
migrant Muslims outgrew Zongo Mallam, which led to the establishment of 
new settlements such as Tudu, Adabraka, Sabon Zongo, Fadama, Lagos Town, 
Nima, Kanda, Maamobi, Kotobabi, al-Hamdu, Shukurah, Alajo, Akweiteman 
and Madinah. 4 

1 Dinan 1975, 45. 

2 Opoku 1967. 

3 Clarke 1982, 37. 

4 See further Mumuni 1994, 34-39. 


Sulemana Mumuni 

With regard to the zongos described above, it is important to note that 
Islam appears to be the major cohesive factor drawing various ethnic groups 
as well as geographically and culturally diverse ones together in the zongos. 
These settlements are distinguished from their predominantly Christian and 
Traditional neighbours in different ways. Mosques are found all over these 
zongos and at least the adhan (call to prayer) is heard five times daily. Their 
mode of dressing also makes them distinct in the metropolis. Islamic festivals 
and holidays bring the Muslims together from all over Accra. Therefore, the 
zongos maintain a strong sense of identity and exclusiveness. In connection 
with this unique status of the zongos, Trimingham notes: 

Settlement in the new towns scarcely changes long established Muslims. On the con¬ 
trary they are the most traditional and conservative of all their inhabitants. The new 
urban milieu hardly changes ... such colonies and the atmosphere in which their chil¬ 
dren grow up is little removed from that of a village.5 

Alien and National Migrants 

The alien African migrants either came from Nigeria or the French-speaking 
West African states. The major ethnic groups such as Hausa, Yoruba, Fulani, 
Nupe, Kanuri came from Nigeria, whilst the Wangara (Yarse, Dyula, Mande), 
Mossi, Kotokoli, Chamba, Zambarama, Kado Gruma, Chokosi and Basari 
came from the Franco-phone West African states. These migrants arrived on 
the coast of Ghana either as traders or itinerant clerics. 

The pre-eminent migrant ethnic groups were the Hausa and Yoruba. 
Naino Iddris (d. 1893) is remembered in oral traditions as the first Hausa 
Muslim to settle in Accra, probably in 1850. He came from Katsina in 
Hausaland to the Gold Coast in the company of his wife, his brother Mallam 
Abu Bakr (Garubah) and his son Mallam Muhammad Bako. Other prominent 
Hausa migrants besides the family of Naino were Mallam Muhammad Shawi 
who moved from Hausaland and finally settled in Accra and resided with 
Naino. Mallam Shawi's son Muhammad Abass became Imam of Accra in 1929 
and was succeeded by his son Mukhtari Abass who was succeeded by the 
current National Chief Imam Shaykh Uthman Nuhu Sharubutu. Retired 
soldiers from the Gold Coast Hausa constabulary also augmented the Accra 
Hausa community. Officer Ali, who was an acclaimed head of the community, 
used his influence to acquire land from the colonial government and with 
contributions from the Muslim community in Accra the central Mosque at 
Makola was built. However, in 1986 the old central mosque in Accra was razed 
to the ground by bulldozers to make room for the "Rawlings Car Park". 6 
Bawa Kadri English succeeded Officer Ali as the leader of the Hausa 
community. Today the community is headed by Ali Bawa Kadi English; 
Bawa's son. 

6 Trimingham 1959, 215. 

6 "Central Mosque Goes Down At Last", Daily Graphic, 20/10/ 1986. 


A Survey of Islamic Non-Governmental Organisations in Accra 

The earlier Yoruba migrants came from Abeokuta. The first chief of the 
Yoruba community was Brimah the butcher, who came from Ilorin. By the 
1880s he was already established in Accra as a successful butcher and was 
later to emerge as an ardent organiser of the Muslims in Accra. In 1909 he was 
appointed by Governor Nathan as the first non-indigenous Muslim chief in 
Accra. He died on 4 May 1915 and left behind five children. 

The Fulani also played a leading role in the activities of the Accra Mus¬ 
lim community. Mallam Fulata Bornu, a Fulani from Marwa came on foot to 
Accra. He first settled with a relative of Mallam Nuhu and later moved to join 
the Baako family. In 1903 he became the Imam of Accra (1903-1905). Another 
prominent Fulani migrant was Mallam Nuhu who settled at Kotobabi a 
suburb of Accra. He became Imam of Accra in 1960-1966. 

Thus, while the Yoruba gave the Accra Muslim community secular 
leadership, the Hausa and Fulani gave the community its spiritual leadership. 
Since 1850 to date, Accra has had 13 Imams out of which eight were Hausa and 
the remaining five were Fulani. The first Imam was Naino Iddris, a Hausa, 
and the current one another Hausa in the person of Uthman Nuhu Sharubutu. 
It is also worth noting, that the Imam of Accra is also the National Imam of 
Ghana since Accra is the capital of the state. 

The national migrants mainly are those who came from the northern 
territories of the Gold Coast. These included the Gonja, Dagomba, Nanumba, 
Mamprusi, Wala and Grunshie. The national migrants came to the coast either 
as slaves or to seek employment in the public and private sectors. Sometimes 
they also rendered certain services such as being butchers and wanzams, 
natives who offer services such as shaving, clipping of nails and circumcision. 
After the Aliens Compliance Order of 1969, which resulted in the departure of 
more than a million alien African migrants, there was an influx of more 
northern migrants to the towns of the south, especially Accra. The national 
migrants then flooded the coast to trade particularly in foodstuffs that hitherto 
had been the domain of the alien African migrants. 7 

The non-African group comprised the Lebanese, Syrian and after inde¬ 
pendence in March 1957, the officials of the Arab and Islamic missions in 
Accra. The great boom in the export of cocoa in 1919 /20 brought prosperity to 
Accra. The city became attractive not only to European firms but also to Asian, 
Syrian and Lebanese merchants. The Muslims in the Lebanese and Syrian 
communities in Accra contributed greatly to the development of Islam in 
Accra. The Lebanese community in particular took great interest in the 
financing and maintenance of mosques in Accra through the Islamic 
Educational Trust and the Ghana Society for Islamic Education and Refor¬ 
mation, both established in the middle of the 1970s. Bilateral and friendly 
relations with Arab and Islamic states led to the opening of Arab and Islamic 
Missions in Ghana after independence. Today Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, 
Libya, Lebanon, Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran as well as the State 

7 Mumuni 1994, 40. 


Sulemana Mumuni 

of Palestine have Missions in Accra. A majority of the diplomats and officials in 
these Missions are Muslims thus opening another chapter in the development 
of Islam in Ghana and Accra in particular. 8 The divestiture of state enterprises 
in the middle of the 1990s witnessed the advent of Malaysians into the county. 
The Malaysian Muslims are contributing towards the social development of 
Ghana through the Ghana Islamic Development Association (GIDA). 

The Ga Muslim Community 

The second major group of Muslims in Accra are the indigenous Ga Muslims. 
Around 1900 Kwashi Solomon became the first Ga Muslim convert. His 
conversion took place five decades after the first Hausa migrant Muslim set¬ 
tled in Accra. In 1931 Yushau Ayikwei Aryee a Protestant was converted to 
Islam through his search for the proper way of worshipping God. It is said that, 
as a result of his search, he had a vision that instructed him to accept Islam as a 
religion. 9 

The Ga Muslim community increased in the 1940s and according to 
Anderson, this was because the Ga became dissatisfied with the Traditional 
beliefs whereas Christianity came to be viewed as a foreign imposition. 10 
However, Alhaji Suleman Kasim Quartey attributes the trend to the similarity 
between the Islamic rituals and rites and the Ga culture. He opines that Ga 
might have come into contact with Islam before their migration to their 
present settlement. 11 The pioneer Ga Muslims were converted by the migrant 
Muslim clerics. However, it is worth noting that the subsequent process of 
Islamisation was championed by the Ga pioneer Muslim converts. Ga 
Muslims are found all over the Accra metropolis, especially in Bukom, 
Mamprobi, Korle Gonno, Teshie-Nungua and Mabrouk. 12 

Organisation along Doctrinal Lines 

There exist a number of Islamic organisations in Accra, the origins of which 
are on doctrinal lines, among others the Tijanrya Sufi brotherhood, the Ghana 
Sufi Council, the Islamic Research and Reformation Centre, the Supreme 

8 Mumuni 1994, 42. 

9 Interview with Haji Suleman Kassim Quartey, Vice National Chairman, Ghana Muslim Mis¬ 
sion. See further Dretke 1968. Aryee's contemporaries who followed his example were Alhaji 
Ibrahim Lamptey, Muhammed Markwei Laryea, Godwin Ahmed, Musa Doudu, Yakubu Black- 
son, Alihu Ankrah, Dauda Lamptey among others. These pioneer Ga Muslims were followed by 
Justice Yaccubu Ammah, Mahmood Lamptey, Alhaji Musah Quarty, Dauda Otoo and others. 
Most of them joined Islam with their families. The late Madam Mariama Dedey Akanuah was 
one of the pioneer Ga women to embrace Islam independently. 

10 Anderson 1978, 282. 

11 Interview with Haji Suleman Kassim Quartey, September 1991. 

12 Mumuni 1994, 44. 


A Survey of Islamic Non-Governmental Organisations in Accra 

Council for Islamic Affairs, the Imam Husayn Foundation as well as the Nation 
of Islam. 

In Ghana, Muslims are generally classified into Sunni and Ahmadi 
Muslims with the understanding that, with the exception of the Ahmadis, the 
rest of the Muslim population are Sunni. However, technically Sunnis are 
Muslims who adhere to any one of the four orthodox schools of Islamic law. 
The discussion will be limited to distinct Sunni groups in Accra. There exist in 
Accra several Islamic groups with insignificant doctrinal differences amongst 
them, in addition to the Sufi brotherhood, the Wahhabiya also known as the 
Ahlul-Sunnah, the ShiTte and the Elijah Muhammad Islamic Brotherhood. It is 
significant to note that despite the doctrinal differences among Muslims in 
Accra, they are united in the mode of worship. There are no specific mosques 
for Wahhabi Shi'ah and Sufi. It is worth nothing that, though an Imam of a 
particular mosque could be a Sufi, the congregation will be a mixture of 
Shi 'ah, Wahhabi and Sufi. Islamic rituals have significance not only in their 
religious context but as a manifestation of a common social pattern. Islam as a 
way of life provides the necessary integration of both the individual and 

The most dominant Islamic group in Accra and Ghana as a whole are the 
adherents of the Sufi brotherhood, namely the Qadiriya and the Tijanlya. The 
Qadiriya is believed to have been introduced by members of the Gold Coast 
Hausa Constabulary in the nineteenth century and Mallam Naino Iddris as 
well as his descendants and disciples are said to have belonged to the tariqa 
before joining the Tijanlya. Today the Qadiriya has been replaced with the 
Tijanlya in most places and the brotherhood has only a few adherents in 
Ghana. However, some elderly Muslims still belong to this order, among 
others Mallam Muhammad Awal at New Town in Accra. 

The most popular Sufi order in Accra is the Tijanlya. The expansion of the 
order in Ghana started after 1889. According to Steward, it was one Alfa 
Hashim, who was a nephew of al-hajj Umar Tal and who took refuge in 
Madina in the first decade of the twentieth century, and Moro Futi, the elder 
brother of al-hajj Umar Tal, who were responsible for the introduction of the 
order in Ghana. 13 The Tijanlya gained wide patronage after the decline of the 
Salaga market in Gonja and the dispersion of the Hausa traders and clerics to 
the coast and throughout northern Ghana during the 1890s. By far the most 
revered scholar is al-hajj Umar of Kete Krachi, a Hausa who settled in Salaga in 
the 1870s. al-hajj Umar was considered the spiritual leader of the Gold Coast 
Muslims from the time of his pilgrimage in 1913 to his death in 1934. The 
Tijanlya received a further boost through the activities of the celebrated 
Senegalese scholar Ibrahim Niass of Kaolack in the 1950s. The impact of the 
order is manifested by the fact that all Imams of Accra, from Naino up to 

13 Stewart 1965, 29. 


Sulemana Mumuni 

Uthman Nuhu Sharubutu, have all belonged to the order and have contrib¬ 
uted to the development of the order in the country. 14 

Currently Shaykh Abdallah MayKano of Prang in Brong Ahafo is looked 
upon as the spiritual head of the Tijaniya in Ghana. MayKano is a former 
student and disciple of Ibrahim Nyass. Other leading Tijanl clerics in Accra 
are: Chief Imam Uthman Nuhu Sharubutu, Mallam Salisu Sha'ban at Nima, 
Kamalu-deen Abu Bakr (Deputy Chief Imam), Yahya Amin (Imam of 
Shukurah and chief disciple of Sharubutu), and Saani Murtala of the National 
Council of Ulama' at Nima. In terms of academic contributions, the most 
revered Tijanl scholars are Uztudh Abdul-Razak, a former lecturer at 
Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria, and Jamal Baba, Imam of New 
Town (Accra), both of whom graduated from the al-Azhar Islamic University 
in Cairo, Egypt. 15 

Wahhabi teaching has also influenced the Islamic practices of Ghanaian 
Muslims. In the 1950s and early 1960s, Ghanaian Muslims were exposed to 
various Islamic ideas, and the Wahhabiya was not an exception. This was en¬ 
forced after the establishment of Arab and Islamic Missions and Embassies in 
Ghana after independence in 1957. Prominent among them were the Missions 
of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Algeria, Lebanon and Pakistan. Ghanaian 
Muslim students were granted scholarships from these Missions to study in 
their respective countries. The majority of them returned with Wahhabi ideas 
and began promoting them in their communities. The first organised force in 
the dissemination of Wahhabiya was the Islamic Research and Reformation 
Centre at Nima. The founding clerics in 1972 were among others Haji Umar 
Ibrahim Imam, Haji Shu'ab Abu Bakr as well as Mallam Musah. All of them 
had studied in Saudi Arabia. 16 The centre was aggressive in its missionary 
activities in Accra, particularly towards the dominant Tijanl Muslims. 

Another organisation for the promotion of the Wahhabi doctrine is the 
Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, an umbrella organisation for all Saudi 
trained graduates in Ghana. The Council is under the leadership of Dr. 
Ahamad c Umar, who lives in Kumasi, and Dr. Said Salis, a lecturer at 
Department of Modern Languages at the University of Ghana in Legon. 17 The 
Wahhabiya is catching up steadily in Ghana with the youth due to its modern 
approach to Islamisation through awarding scholarships to the youth and 
establishing modern Islamic institutions of learning in the urban areas. It is 
also very active in most urban cities but yet to make a mark in the 
predominant rural communities. In Ghana, they are popularly referred to as 
Ahlus-Sunnah WaPJanPat with Haji Umar Ibrahim Imam as their National 
Chief Imam. 

14 Mumuni 1994, 47-49. See further Stewart 1965. 

15 Mumuni 1994, 49. 

16 Mumuni 1994, 52. The Arabic title al-hajj is usually transcribed in Ghana as Haji or Alhaji and 
will be used throughout the text when used by Ghanaian Muslims. 

17 Mumuni 1994, 52-53. 


A Survey of Islamic Non-Governmental Organisations in Accra 

Ghanaian Muslims came into direct contact with Shi'ism in 1982 when 
the Islamic Republic of Iran, which appears to be the custodian of Shi 'ism 
globally, established its mission in Ghana. Earlier on, Ghanaian students in 
the Middle East and Ghanaians who studied in the Islamic Republic of Iran 
had contact with Shi 'ism . Shaykh Ishaq of Mamobi in Accra, who studied in 
Lebanon, was one of the early Ghanaian Shi'ah. However, Shaykh Abdul- 
Salaam al-Bansi, one of the pioneers to study in the Islamic Republic, is seen to 
be the pioneer Shi 'ah in the country, probably due to his intimate relationship 
with Iranian Shi 'ah institutions and the Cultural Consulate of the Islamic 
Republic in Accra. His contemporaries are Ibrahim al-Bansi and Baba 
Kamalu-deen. These pioneer Shi 'ahs went to the Islamic Republic after 
studying in the Middle East. 18 

The Cultural Consulate of the Islamic Republic is the vanguard of Shi 'ah 
propagation through its scholarship scheme, seminars and supply of Shi 'ah 
literature in Accra. In fact, the Cultural Consulate of the Islamic Republic has 
during the 1990s become the most active one among the Muslim consulates in 
the country. In addition, the Imamiyyah Muslim Mission in Tamale as well as 
the Ahul-Bayt Institute and the Imam Husayn Foundation in Accra are Shi 'ah 
institutions, which are very active in propagating the Shi 'ite doctrine. 19 They 
have contracted a mosque opposite the Accra Girls Secondary School at 
Maamobi in Accra, where Shaykh Abdul-Salaam al-Bansi serves as Imam and 
Shaykh Ibrahim al-Bansi as his naib (deputy). 20 

The latest Islamic group in Ghana is the Elijah Muhammad Islamic fra¬ 
ternity or the Nation of Islam, an African-American Islamic organisation based 
in the USA. Ghanaians came into contact with the Nation of Islam in 1986 
when Louis Farrakhan visited Ghana. Since then Farrakhan has become an 
intimate associate of the former President of Ghana, Flt.Lt. J.J. Rawlings and 
has visited the country in 1989 and 1993. The African office of the Nation of 
Islam is at Osu in Accra with Brother Akbar Muhammad as head of the 
African Secretariat and resident representative. The aim of the Nation of Islam 
is to contribute meaningfully to the social transformation of the country. Its 
focal point is to integrate the African-American Muslims into the Ghanaian 
environment. There are plans by the Nation of Islam to establish an AIDS 
educational and treatment centre at Nima and an educational complex at 
Weija, both in Accra. 

18 Interview with Tahiru Kamara, Librarian at the Cultural Consulate of the Islamic Republic 
of Iran in Accra. 

19 Interview with Sebaway Zakariyya, official at the Cultural Consulate of the Islamic Republic 
of Iran in Accra. 

20 Mumuni 1994, 55-56. 


Sulemana Mumuni 

The Origins of Non-Governmental Islamic Organisations 

Muslims played various roles in the social, economic and political life of the 
country in the pre-colonial and colonial period as well as during the struggle 
for independence and during the post-colonial period. The majority of these 
activities were, however, performed by Muslims as individuals and not by 
Muslim organisations. The few early Muslim organisations that were estab¬ 
lished had arisen from the need of the Muslims to co-ordinate their activities. 
For instance, the intimate association that existed between the Gold Coast 
Hausa Constabulary and the colonial government enhanced the formation of 
Islamic non-governmental organisations to champion the cause of Islam in 
Accra. In addition, Muslims experienced the impact and examples of Christian 
organisations such as the Catholic Secretariat, Methodist Church and 
Presbyterian Church of Ghana. 

The first Muslim organisation to emerge was the Gold Coast Muslim 
Association (GCMA) in the 1930s. The initial objective of the GCMA was to 
cater for the social and religious needs of the Muslim community. The foun¬ 
ders and the majority of its members were migrant Muslim settlers in the 
Gold Coast colony. The association exercised its influence through the ethnic 
unions, mainly Nigerian, and the marketing unions such as the butchers that 
were affiliated to it. Soon, however, it turned its attention to the national 
politics of the time. Prince is of the view that the association departed from its 
social objectives when it turned its attention to politics in 1939, when after the 
earthquake disaster in Accra, Muslims felt that there was an unfair dis¬ 
tribution of building material. 21 On the impact of GCMA, Prince comments: 

The Gold Coast Muslim Association ... is a symbol of a movement which seems to have 
taken the rest of the country by surprise, for little attention was paid before that time to 
the political role of Muslims. They were usually forgotten or ignored. 22 

In order to enhance its political activities, particularly during the struggle for 
independence, the Gold Coast Muslim Association metamorphosed into the 
Muslim Association Party (MAP) in 1954. 

The political activities of the Gold Coast Muslim Association led to the 
emergence of yet another Islamic Non-Governmental Organisation, the 
Muslim Youth Congress (MYC) in 1950. 23 When the Convention People Party 
(CPP) came to power in Ghana, the leadership of the MYC came into promi¬ 
nence and gained political influence. Mallam Futa, a MYC functionary, was 
made the National Chief Imam when Muhammad Abass was removed from 

21 Prince 1954,107. See further Mumini 1994, 96-100. 

22 Prince 1954,104. 

23 The Congress probably came into existence to champion the political cause of the 
Convention People Party (CPP) due to the anti-CPP stand of the Gold Coast Muslim 
Association. The CPP is believed to have fuelled the formation of the MYC to undermine the 
leadership of the GCMA and to curb its political influence in the country. The congress was 
vehemently anti-GCMA and a wing of the CPP. See further Denis 1964, 306. 


A Survey of Islamic Non-Governmental Organisations in Accra 

that office in 1959. 24 The Muslim Youth Congress lost its political influence and 
became ineffective after the overthrow of the CPP in 1966. 

In 1957, the Ghana Muslim Mission (GMM) came into existence. It was the 
first Islamic non-governmental organisation to champion the cause of 
indigenous Ga Muslims in Accra. The main goals of the mission were towards 
bringing all indigenous Muslims under one fraternity, revising the true 
teachings of Islam and catering for the needs of newly converted Muslims and 
providing educational facilities for the youth. 25 

Since its inauguration, the GMM has been able to establish several edu¬ 
cational institutions throughout the country, among them are over 20 pre¬ 
paratory and primary schools. In addition, the GMM has a school complex 
with a Mission hall and a mosque at Korle Gonno in Accra as well as an Islamic 
Secondary School in Kumasi, a secondary and commercial school at Gomoa 
Abasso in the Central Region and a girl's vocational training centre at 
Mankessim. However, the GMM relies heavily on financial assistance from 
Saudi Arabia. 26 

The National Liberation Council (NLC), which toppled the CPP Gov¬ 
ernment on 24th February 1966, banned both th e Muslim Association Party and 
the Muslim Youth Congress. The consequence of this action by the then 
Government led to the creation of the Ghana Muslim Community (GMC) in 
1966. The GMC was a loose Islamic community dominated mainly by migrant 
Muslims from zongo communities in the Accra metropolis. The prominent 
members were migrant Islamic clerics, migrant businessmen and migrant 
Muslim chiefs. The various Muslim organisations, such as the Gold Coast 
Muslim Association, the Muslim Association Party, the Muslim Youth Congress, 
metamorphosed into the Ghana Muslim Community and became defunct after 
the emergence of the GMC. The Ghana Muslim Community was established for 
the promotion of Islam and the interest of Muslims. After the formation of the 
GMC, the Muslim community resolved to get out of national politics 
completely. Besides politics, the aims and objectives of the GMC were not 
different from those of the parent bodies. Eventually, the body turned into a 
Sufi motivated religious group and a majority of its members belonged to the 
Maliki school of Law. 27 

The next development was the formation of the Council of Muslim Chiefs 
in Accra. Differences of culture and religious beliefs and the lack of recogni¬ 
tion of the new institutions aimed at the maintenance of law and order and 
good governance by migrants in Accra led to the rise of ethnic headmen or 

24 Imam Muhammad Abass came into prominence once again as he was reinstated as National 
Chief Imam after the 1966 coup and was succeeded by his son Mukhtar Abass. See further Mu- 
muni 1994,104-05. 

25 Mumuni 1994,117-22. 

26 Interview with Haji Kassim Quartey. See also Dretke 1968 and Mumuni 1994,124. 

27 Mumuni 1994, 105. However, the hegemony of the GMC was undercut three years later 
during the second republic by the promulgation of the Aliens Compliance Order of 1969. Some of 
the migrant settlers, particularly the Hausa and Yoruba, were affected by the order. 


Sulemana Mumuni 

chiefs. 28 According to Chief Brimah Amida Peregrino, the Council of Muslim 
Chiefs was formed in December 1969 by some prominent ethnic chiefs in the 
Accra metropolis 29 The Council was composed of both the alien and national 
migrant chiefs although the alien chiefs dominated. 30 The main objectives of 
the Council were to give advisory services to the Muslim community in 
Ghana, to serve as a rallying point for all migrant Muslim chiefs in Accra and 
to assist in the administration and maintenance of the mosque built by their 
ancestors. Five alien and four national migrant chiefs formed the Council. In 
order to ensure unity and satisfy the alien and national chiefs in the Council, 
the constitutional arrangement was that the ceremonial presidency went to 
the national migrant chiefs whilst the executive chairman went to the alien 
chiefs. The Council of Muslim Chiefs was to become a very powerful NGO due 
to its role in the selection of National Chief Imam and its intimate relations 
with the national political leadership. The Council more or less endorsed the 
ancient tradition of Brimah the butcher and his descendants having the duty 
of appointing the spiritual leaders for the Accra Muslim community. In order 
to create a balance, the descendants of Brimah the butcher nominate either a 
Hausa or a Fulani to the spiritual office. 31 

The Council of Muslim Chiefs has also been engaged in charitable activi¬ 
ties, among others giving material support to victims of natural disasters. Each 
year the Council organises a durbar for the chiefs at Nima as part of the Id al- 
Fitr festivities. The main source of funds to the Council is through con¬ 
tributions from member chiefs and it is important to note the Council is at 
present one of the very few Islamic bodies that has nothing to do with the 
Arab and Islamic governments and their missions in Ghana as far as funding 
is concerned. 32 

28 Acquah 1972, 102. Ethnic headmen are nominally people with no secular education since 
there is a close correlation between illiteracy and the use made of customary institutions. 

29 Interview with Chief Brimah Amida Peregrino, May 1993. 

30 However, already at the beginning of its existence, there were rifts within the Council. 
When chief Musa Balago, a Frafra, was elected as the first president, some 'national' migrant 
chiefs, in particular chief Ibrahim Dagombe, a Dagombe, thought that his election was not in 
order. Instead, chief Ibrahim argued that one of the chiefs from the Northern region should 
have become president. 

31 Interview with Haji Labaran Muhammad Ibrahim, General Secretary of the Council of Mus¬ 
lim Chiefs. See further Mumuni 1994, 108-13. The National Chief Imam is selected among all 
the ethnic imams as the representative of all imams in the country. However, because the 
'alien' migrant chiefs have had more influence in the council due to their wealth or large 
following, Hausa imams in particular emerged as the Chief Imam. In most cases the selection of 
these imams is not based on scholarship. 

32 Mumuni 1994, 116, 116-17. The council has for some years now been consulting with the 
National Chief Imam, the ethnic imams and some notable members of the c ulama :> to decide on 
the nisab (minimum amount of wealth) for the various properties which attracts zakat and also 
a minimum amount of mahr (dowry) for Islamic marriages. 


A Survey of Islamic Non-Governmental Organisations in Accra 

Women Islamic NGOs 

Women have not been left out in the formation of associations. The first of such 
organisations was Zumunchi. The term is a Hausa word denoting showing 
love and fraternity. It is an Accra-based benevolent women's association 
which was formed in 1968 when a group of women met and one of them 
suggested the formation of an association. They then began to meet at 
Cowlane each contributing six pence weekly for a chair and a canopy. 33 The 
aim of Zumunchi is to assist members in times of birth, death, marriage and, 
occasionally, sickness. It is found in Muslim communities in Accra such as 
Nima, Adabraka, Tudu, Accra New Town, Sabon Zongo, Madinah, 
Shukurrah, Cowlane and Alajo. However, Zumunchi has had a limited role in 
the dissemination of Islam because the organisation does not engage in 
inculcating Islamic practices and mode of worship into its members. Although 
open to all women Zumunchi has become an association of successful Muslim 
businesswomen, opinion-influencing Muslim women leaders and hajias 
(women pilgrims). 34 It is worth noting that some c ulama° in Accra have been 
critical about the activities of Zumunchi due to its emphasis on drumming and 

The second women's association to be established was the National 
Assembly of Muslim Women. The Assembly was founded in 1981 and soon 
became influential in the Muslim community due to its intimate relations with 
the government of the Third Republic and with the Saudi Arabian Embassy. 
This status was due to the personal influence of its first president, Hajia Amina 
Baby Ocansey, who was also the women's organiser of the ruling political 
party (PNP). In 1984 the Assembly established a day nursery and preparatory 
Islamic school at Abeka in Accra. Initially, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan assisted 
the school with Islamic literature, while Egypt donated two teachers to the 
school. In the late 1980s, the Muslim World League emerged as the financial 
backbone of the school. In addition to the school, the Assembly gives financial 
assistance to institutions for handicapped children. 35 

During the middle of the 1980s there was an upsurge in the country of 
women's groups with different orientations, which led to the establishment of 
the Federation of Muslim Women Associations of Ghana (FOMWAG). It was an 
attempt to bring all Muslim women's organisations under one umbrella in 
order to have a unified front and to speak with one voice. The FOMWAG was 
inaugurated in December 1997. Its main objective is to make the Muslim 

33 Pellow 1977, 77. 

34 Mumuni 1994,126-27. 

35 Interview with Hajia Amina Baby Ocansey, President of the National Assembly of Muslim 
Women 20th October 1992. See further Mumuni 1994, 127-32. During the early 1990s, the 
school had sixteen teachers and 770 pupils. However, since the mid-1990s , the Assembly has 
had difficulties in running the school as it has become short of funds, mainly due to the fact 
that Hajia Amina Baby Ocansey is out of business and there are no more funds forthcoming 
from Saudi Arabia. As a consequence, most teachers and pupils have left the school. 


Sulemana Mumuni 

woman conscious about her rights and responsibilities in Islam and empower 
her through education, to play a more positive role in national development. 36 

The Islamic Councils 

In the discussion so far it is apparent that besides the women's organisations in 
Accra, ethnic and doctrinal solidarity played a vital role in the formation of 
Islamic non-governmental organisations in Accra. One of the basic divisions 
was the organisation along migrant lines and along indigenous lines. While 
the Ghana Muslim Community and the Council of Muslim Chiefs represented 
migrant Muslims, the Ga were represented by the Ghana Muslim Mission. Yet, 
despite these different lines of organisation, there have been attempts made 
by both the migrant and indigenous Muslims to have a united body to 
champion the cause of Sunni Muslims in Accra in particular and Ghana as a 
whole. Ideally, this united body was to be charged with the responsibility to 
unite and coordinate the activities of Sunni Muslims in the country. It is 
important to add that whilst in some instances the initiative came from the 
migrant and indigenous divide in some cases it came from the national 
government in power. The government usually intervened in Muslim affairs 
with the explicit aim of creating a congenial environment to enable Muslims 
to contribute their quota to national reconstruction and development. The 
various initiatives consequently resulted in the formation of Islamic Councils 
in Accra. These Councils are vested with a wider scope of activity than their 
component bodies. 

The drive for a united national representation led over the years to the 
formation of eight Councils. What is interesting about the formation of these 
Councils is that almost every national government led to the formation of a 
new Muslim council. The Councils are the Muslim Council of Ghana (MCG), the 
Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (SCIA), the Ghana Islamic Council (GIC), the 
Ghana Muslim Representative Council (GMRC), the National Islamic Secretariat 
(NIS), the Federation of Muslim Council (FMC), as well as the Dinil-lslam of 
Ghana (DIG). 

a. The formations of councils before 1972 

The first Islamic Council in the then Gold Coast, the Muslim Council of Ghana 
(MCG), was formed in 1953. The Council, which was to be the mouthpiece of 
Muslims, was formed on the advice of the Convention People Party (CPP) 
Government. The MCG was apparently formed by the CPP in an attempt to 
win Muslim solidarity and support. Although the Council was formed os¬ 
tensibly to unite Muslims, Dretke is of the view that its creation rather brought 

36 Ammah 1999, 3. 


A Survey of Islamic Non-Governmental Organisations in Accra 

divisions among Muslims in Accra. On the activities of the Council he 
comments that: 

National politics created yet another division among Muslims in Accra. Since August 
1953, there have been Islam and CPP mosques, Islam and CPP faithful. For the first 
time, the Id al-Adha prayer of August 1954 gave rise to two separate ceremonies. 37 

Muslims who shared different political views were debarred from its activi¬ 
ties. The nucleus of the Council were the migrant Muslims. The Council came 
to a halt in 1966 after it had been banned by the National Liberation Council. 38 
In 1969, the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (SCIA) was established by some 
Ga Muslims and Muslims from the northern part of the country. Alhaji Abu 
Jaja, a Tamale based businessman became the chairman of an eight-member 
National Executive Committee elected from the Northern, Greater Accra, 
Eastern and Upper Regions. 39 In 1973, the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs 
became one of the three component bodies of the Ghana Muslim Representative 
Council. Thus, the SCIA existed as an independent body for only four years. 40 

Some years earlier, the Ghana Muslim Community and the Ghana Muslim 
Mission had formed a single loose body—the Ghana Islamic Council (GIC) in 

1971. The aim of the GIC was to cater for the welfare of Muslims in the 
country. 41 The need for the co-operation was probably due to an Accra High 
Court order to auction the national central mosque then under construction at 
Abossey-Okai in Accra but also due to efforts to ease the rivalry between the 
two bodies. 42 However, barely two days after the inauguration of the GIC in 

1972, the Executive Council of the Ghana Muslim Mission disassociated itself 
from the new Council. 43 Prior to the inauguration of the Ghana Islamic Council, 
there were calls for the suspension of the inauguration of the Council on the 
grounds that those concerned had no mandate to speak for the Ghana Muslim 
Mission. The rush to form the Council at all costs despite the reservations of the 
Ghana Muslim Mission was probably to win the support of the new 
administration of the National Redemption Council under General I.K. 
Acheampong. The withdrawal of the Mission paralysed the activities of the 
new Council since it became only a Ghana Muslim Community affair. 44 

37 Dretke 1968, 85. 

38 Mumuni 1994,139-41. 

39 Interview with Haji Kassim Quartey, June 1993 as well as "New Council for Muslims", Daily 
Graphic, 7/4/1970,10. 

40 See further Mumuni 1994,141-42. 

41 "Muslims to form new body". Daily Graphic, 7/10 /1970, 16. However, the two component 
bodies were to operate as independent ones. 

42 "Muslim Community Taken to Court", Daily Graphic, 23/9/1970, 4. The court order followed 
the failure of the Ghana Muslim community to pay Messrs. FAF (Ghana) Ltd., the firm building 
the mosque an amount of GHC 425,651.00 in respect of the construction of the mosque. 

43 "New council criticised". Daily Graphic, 2 /8 /1972,4. 

44 Mumuni 1994,143-44. 


Sulemana Mumuni 

b. Attempts to create unity among the Muslims during the 1970s 

The National Redemption Council (NRC) appointed in 1972 a national 
committee to settle all dispute among Muslim organisations in the country 
and to ensure Muslim Unity. 45 The efforts of the NRC for ensuring peace and 
harmony among Muslim bodies gave birth to the Ghana Muslim Representative 
Council (GMRC). The GMRC was inaugurated in March 1973. It emerged as 
an umbrella body for all Muslims; the CMC, the GMM and the SCIA being its 
component bodies. The primary objective of GMRC was to liase with 
government to supervise the construction of the Abossey Okai central 
mosque, supervise hdjj operations, mediate in the appointment of and the 
dismissal of the imams and co-operate with government to promote education 
facilities for Muslims. 46 The leadership of the Council was supposed to rotate 
among the three component bodies for a term of three years, whereas the 
National Executive Council was to include members from the component 
bodies. The leadership began with the Ghana Muslim Community and Alhaji 
Shardow Kudus, an Accra businessman, emerged as the first national 
chairman. Alhaji Mahmoud Lamptey (SCIA) became the first vice-chairman. 
The leadership of Shardow Kudus ended prematurely in July 1974 when the 
Executive Council was dismissed. A new Executive Council was appointed 
under the joint chairmanship of Alhaji (Major) B. Salifu and Alhaji Bashiru 
Kwaw-Swanzy. However, in 1976 Alhaji (Major) Salifi's and Alhaji Kwaw- 
Swanzy's Council was dissolved by the Council of Muslim Chiefs and was 
replaced by an eight-member Interim Management Committee with chief 
Alhaji Kadri English as chairman. According to the chiefs, the reason for their 
action was the failure of GMRC to comply with the mandate given them in 
1974 on assumption of office. 47 A new National Executive Council of the 

45 "Bid to Get Muslim Unity", Daily Graphic, 12/7/1972,11. 

46 See further Mumuni 1994,144-45,151-55. During 1978, the GMRC made an attempt to pub¬ 
lish a magazine of its own, called The Muslims Horizon. Just around that time, the GMRC also 
instituted a body known as the Muslim Relief Organisation to assist victims of natural disasters 
and refugees. During 1985, the GMRC established a directorate-general for information and 
Islamic guidance to assist in the promotion of Islamic studies in Ghana. The GMRC is affiliated 
to several international Islamic organisations, among others the Muslim World League (Rabita), 
the Organization of Islamic Conference, the World Islamic Call Society, the World Islamic In¬ 
formation Services, and the Organisation for Islamic Unity for Africa. 

47 "Muslim Affairs", Daily Graphic, 27/12/1976; "Muslim Executive", Daily Graphic, 17/1/1977. 
The action of the chief was a new dimension in the activities of GMRC because prior to that 
the chiefs had had no influence in the affairs of the council. One consequence of the chiefs' 
action was that the migrant Muslims were not to take secular and spiritual power again. 
According to the chiefs, the executive council had not only failed to draft a constitution for 
GMRC, but it also failed to convene a national congress. The council was also criticised on the 
way and manner it had handled the 1976 hajj operation. Responding to the allegation, Alhaji S. 
Sibidow, the general secretary of the dissolved executive council in a press statement denied 
the allegations of the chiefs. He described their action as unconstitutional and an abuse of the 
intelligence and integrity of Muslims in the country. According to Sibidow, some people were 
associating themselves with the chiefs because they wanted to avoid refunding various sums of 
money they borrowed from the GMRC whilst in Jeddah, whereas others wanted to avoid 
accounting for five complimentary air tickets meant for distribution to regional Imams which 
they used themselves ("We are still in office", Ghanaian Times, 29/12/1976,12). 


A Survey of Islamic Non-Governmental Organisations in Accra 

GMRC with Alhaji Dauda Otoo as its chairman was elected at a National 
Congress held at Cape Coast during March 1977. The National Muslim Council 
(NMC) participated in the Cape Coast congress as a component body. The 
NMC had been formed by 'national' migrants of the Supreme Council for 
Islamic Affairs and their colleagues in Ashanti and Eastern regions. However, 
shortly after the Cape Coast congress, the Ghana Muslim Community, one of the 
component bodies of the GMRC, expressed its dissatisfaction with the 
activities of the newly elected National Executive Council. Consequently, the 
GMC disassociated itself from the GMRC in protest probably either because 
Otoo was a tubah (convert) or due to the admission of the NMC as a component 

c. New rifts and rivalries between Muslim councils 

The withdrawal of the Ghana Muslim Community from the GMRC during 1977 
had adverse consequence on the credibility of the latter when the GMC 
started to create its own network. A new Islamic Council named the United 
Ghana Muslim Representative Council was formed in Accra in 1984. The 
UGMRC was to be run by an Interim Management Committee for three 
months with Alhaji Mukhtari Abass, who at that time was the National Chief 
Imam, as its chairman. 48 The founders of the UGMRC alleged that the main 
objective was to unite all Muslim groups in the country and the disclosure that 
the Ghana Muslim Representative Council was dissolved due its refusal of 
persistent appeals to render accounts of its stewardship since 1973. 

Meanwhile in 1984, the National Executive of GMRC had admitted six 
'indigenous' organisations into its membership, thus bringing the member¬ 
ship to ten. 49 The sudden expansion of the membership of the GMRC brought 
some mixed feelings to Muslims probably because the expansion came just 
two days after the formation of the new United Ghana Muslim Representative 
Council. Moreover, the new bodies were alleged to be 'indigenous' 
organisations undermining the status of the GMRC as the mouth-piece of all 
Muslims in the country. In addition the GMRC did not make any effort to have 
a representation from the 'alien' African migrants. As a consequence, the 
GMRC appeared indigenous in outlook. What is more, the GMRC dismissed 
Alhaji Mukhtari Abbas as the Chief Imam, accusing him of associating himself 

48 "New Muslim Council formed". Daily Graphic, 16/4/1984, 5. The component bodies of the 
new Council were the Ghana Muslim Community, the Ansaru-Din-il-Islamiyya, the Islamic 
Research and Reformation Centre, the National Council of Ulama and Imams, the Council of Muslim 
Chiefs as well as the Association of Muslim Elders. 

49 "GMRC. News Statement", Daily Graphic, 25/4/1984, 4. The new members were the United 
Muslim Association of Ghana, the Ghana Islamic Propagation and Jihad, the Islamic Study Group, the 
Jihad Muslim Conference, the Assemble of Ghana Muslims as well as the United Muslim Association of 


Sulemana Mumuni 

with the new United Ghana Muslim Representative Council. This state of 
affairs brought deeper repercussions within the Muslim Community. 50 

d. Libyan attempts to create unity 

The rivalry between the Ghana Muslim Representative Council and the United 
Ghana Muslim Representative Council led to calls for peace and unity among the 
Muslim Community from individuals, Islamic institutions, Islamic and Arab 
Missions as well as from the Government. 51 These pleas contributed 
ultimately to the signing of an accord between GMRC and UGMRC on 7 July 
1985 in Accra. The accord culminated in the formation of yet another new 
body, the National Islamic Secretariat as an umbrella body for all Islamic or¬ 
ganisations in the country. The component organisations of the Secretariat 
were ten: five from GMRC and the other five from the UGMRC. Alhaji Dauda 
Otoo and Mr. B.A.R. Braimah (Deputy National Chief Imam and Senior 
Lecturer at the University of Ghana) respectively emerged as the two national 
coordinators of the new Secretariat. 

During the first year of its existence, the National Islamic Secretariat 
received assistance from Libya. In December 1984, the Libyan leader 
Mu c ammar al-Qadhdhafl visited Ghana and appealed to the leadership of the 
Secretariat to ensure unity among Muslims. He also pledged his country's 
preparedness to provide financial assistance for the promotion of Islam in 
Ghana. 52 In addition to Libya, the Secretariat received support from the 
Islamic Republic of Iran. 

Along the way, the National Islamic Secretariat was transformed a few 
years later into the Federation of Muslim Councils. The transformation was an 
outcome of negotiations conducted by the Ghanaian delegation at the Third 
International Islamic Conference of West African countries that was held in 
Tripoli during January 1987. The Ghana delegation in connection with the 
World Islamic Call Society (WICS) held a series of discussions about Muslim 
unity in Ghana which eventually led to the signing of an agreement between 
the Ghanaians and the World Islamic Call Society, referred to as the 'Tripoli 
Accord'. Among other things, it was agreed that the name Nation Islamic 
Secretariat was to be changed into Federation of Muslim Councils . 53 Funds were 

50 Mumuni 1994,149-50. 

51 Among others, Hajia Anima Baby Ocansey, President of the National Assembly of Muslim 
Women, urged Muslims to promote Islam instead of organising rival bodies to create confusion 
in the Muslim community ("Muslims", Daily Graphic, 2/5/84, 5). The Royal Embassy of Saudi 
Arabia in Accra added its voice for peace and unity among Muslims. The ambassador appealed 
to all conflicting Muslim institutions to bury their differences and unite in order to give truth its 
rightful place. He also expressed his willingness to receive representatives of all the groups 
involved at his chancellery in an attempt to resolve the problem ("Muslims", Daily Graphic, 

52 "Gifts to National Islamic Secretariat", Daily Graphic, 2/2/1987, 2. 

53 Tripoli Accord, translated into English from Arabic by Mr. B.A.R. Braimah. Other features of 
the accord were that in each of the ten regions of Ghana there would be a local Islamic council 


A Survey of Islamic Non-Governmental Organisations in Accra 

provided by the WICS for the initial setting up of a secretariat of the Federa¬ 
tion and Alhaji Dauda Otoo was nominated as the first national coordinator of 
FMC. During 1989, the president of GMRC, Alhaji Abdallah S. William, 
became the acting coordinator due to Otoo's illness. In fulfilment of its earlier 
pledges and in order to facilitate the activities of the Federation, the WICS 
donated a Nissan Patrol jeep to the Federation. The Federation is affiliated to 
the World Islamic Call Society and the Muslim World League. 54 

e. Law 221 and further rifts among the Muslims 

The government of Ghana passed a law during 1989 for the registration of 
religious movements. It was an attempt at surveillance of the various religious 
organisations due to the upsurge of new religious movements in the country. 
The 1989 Religious Bodies Registration Law under PNDC Law 221 required all 
religious bodies in the country to register with the National Commission on 
Culture. In addition, the registration aimed at investigating the number of 
religious movements in the country, their teachings and founders. 
Consequently a Religious Affairs Committee was set up under the National 
Commission on Culture for accomplishing the task. 55 

Law 221 posed a problem for the Muslim community due to the constant 
conflicts and disunity among its leadership. A series of meetings were held to 
see how best to comply with the law. In one of the meetings, Mr. B.A.R. 
Braimah proposed the establishment of yet another religious body, called 
Dinil-Islam or The Religion of Islam. Flis idea was that only Dinil-lslam should 
be registered since all Muslims in Ghana believe and practise Islam. The 
suggestion was taken in utmost good faith with the understanding that Dinil- 
Islam would cover all Islamic bodies and all Muslim places of worship in the 
country. 56 A constitution was therefore promulgated on 11 October 1989 in 
compliance with the formalities for registration. The National Chief Imam, 
Uthman Nuhu Sharubutu, was made the overall head of Dinil-Islam of Ghana 
(DIG). The organisation received its certificate a few months later. 

The registration of Dinil-Islam of Ghana was, however, seen by the Fed¬ 
eration of Muslim Councils as an attempt to undermine its status as the sole 
mouthpiece of the Muslim community. As the legitimate umbrella organisa¬ 
tion for Muslims in the country, the FMC also applied to the Religious Affairs 
Committee for registration. The committee therefore convened a meeting and 

with a president, who would be a member of the general federation in Accra. Further that the 
general federation should cooperate with Islamic bodies and institutions in matters concerning 

54 Mumuni 1994,158-62. 

55 Religious Bodies Registration Law, 1989, PNDC, L 221. 

56 Letter dated 19 August 1990 at Religious Affairs Department, signed by Shaikh Uthman 
Nuhu Sharubutu to Justice D.F. Anna, "On misconception being harboured against Dinil-Islam 
of Ghana by the Executives of the Federation of Muslim Councils since its registration". Filed at 
the Religious Affairs Department, Department of the National Commission on Culture, Accra. 


Sulemana Mumuni 

invited representatives from both sides as well as Mr. Braimah to resolve the 
issue of two registrations for one religious body. At the meeting, Mr. Braimah 
defended his initial suggestion and explained to the panel that the FMC 
covered only ten organisations and as such was inadequate to represent all 
Islamic bodies and Muslim places of worship throughout the country. 
However, the representatives of the FMC issued a warning and stated that 
there would be more confusion among the Muslim community if the FMC was 
not registered. Due to these threats, the FMC was also registered. 57 Since its 
registration, the DIG has mainly been active in organising lecture series and 
seminars as well as launching social welfare projects. 58 

At present, the GMRC, the FMC and the DIG are running concurrently. 59 
However, as far as the Government is concerned, only the FMC represents the 
Sunni Muslims in the country. Despite all the efforts made for a united 
national Muslim body for Sunni Muslims, political considerations and 
affiliation of the individual actors as well as the division of the Muslim 
Community into alien and indigenous Muslims and struggle for a religious 
leader at the national level as opposed to a secular one have all so far con¬ 
tributed to the non-existence of such a body. In addition, the influence of 
foreign interests has undermined the drive for a national representation for 
Sunni Muslims. 

The Impact of Islamic Councils on Muslims 

Since the first republic to date, the Islamic Councils, which have been dis¬ 
cussed above, appear to be national in character although their main play¬ 
ground is in Accra. The component bodies of these Councils as well as their 
leadership are always in Accra, which has been criticised by Muslims, par¬ 
ticularly those in the regions. What usually makes these Councils from one 
time to another national in orientation and character is the recognition given 
to them by the government in power as well as foreign interests. 

Another critical issue has been the entrenchment of some officials as 
permanent executives in the Councils. In most cases they never returned to 
their mother organisations once they joined the councils. The GMRC, for ex- 

57 Letter D.I.G/P.N.D.C/COS/90-1, dated 13/1/91, "Petition of the Muslim Ummah against 
the registration of the Federation of Muslim Councils as a religious body for Muslims". Filed at 
the Religious Affairs Department, Department of the National Commission on Culture, Accra. 
However, the DinU-lslam petitioned against the registration of FMC and underlined that the 
registration of Dinil-Islam was final and for that matter there was no need for the registration of 
FMC because no Ghanaian Muslim would say that his religion is the 'Federation of Muslim 

58 Mumuni 1994,162-64. 

59 The Muslim Council of Ghana (MCG), the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (SCIA) and Ghana 
Islamic Council (GIC) as well as the UGMRC are all now defunct councils. A new Supreme Council 
for Islamic Affairs was established some ten years ago by Ghanaian Saudi trained graduates. Its 
head office is at Nima in Accra. This organisation, however, is the umbrella organisation for the 
Ahlul-Sunna in Ghana (Mumuni 1994,180 fn 42). 


A Survey of Islamic Non-Governmental Organisations in Accra 

ample, was a composition of the Ghana Muslim Community, the Ghana Muslim 
Mission and the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs. In effect, the officials of the 
GMRC were on secondment from these three organisations. However, most 
officials from the GhanaMuslim Mission and Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs 
never went back to their mother organisation after their tenure ended. The 
case of Dauda Otoo serves as a good example. In 1973, Dauda Otoo was the 
second deputy chairman, then became the first deputy chairman in 1974, and 
in 1977 he became the chairman of the Ghana Muslim Representative Council. 
When the Ghana Muslim Representative Council merged with the United Ghana 
Muslim Representative Council in 1985, Dauda Otoo became the first chairman 
of the National Islamic Secretariat. Again in 1987, when the Federation of Muslim 
Councils was formed, Otoo became the first coordinator of the Federation. 

In effect Alhaji Dauda Otoo remained in power from 1977 to 1990 when 
he became bedridden. However, Otoo's leadership of the Ghana Muslim Rep¬ 
resentative Council limited the scope of the Council to become the representa¬ 
tive of the indigenous Muslims in Accra that is, the Ga and the 'national' mi¬ 
grant Muslims. Among other things, it was during his administration in 1978 
that the National Muslim Council, which was dominated by 'national migrant 
Muslims, was admitted into the GMRC after the withdrawal of the Ghana 
Muslim Community. By the end of Otoo's administration the GMRC was re¬ 
duced to becoming only the mouthpiece of the indigenous Muslims in Accra. 

Constitutional procedures were often ignored by some of the leading 
officials. For example. Article 3 of the GMRC constitution clearly states that: 
"The council shall remain strictly neutral in partisan political affairs and 
chieftaincy matters." Yet some former leading members of the GMRC offi¬ 
cially and openly declared that the Council owed nobody any apology for 
their stand on "Union Government". Yet, as Alhaji S.M Sibidow once stated, 
the GMRC should be by its composition the political mouthpiece of Muslims 
in the country. He also believed that the Council was more or less a kind of a 
"Trade Union Congress" for Muslims. 60 

However, the main problem of the Councils has been their financial im¬ 
propriety. Again, the GMRC serves as a good case study. Although Article 25, 
sub-section 3 of the GMRC constitution stated that "All disbursement from the 
funds of the Council must be approved by three-quarters majority of the 
National Executive Committee," there were occasions where huge sums of 
money in foreign exchange were disbursed by Alhaji Sibidow alone. For 
instance, during the 1978 hdjj season, the Bank of Ghana allocated some USD 
31,500 to the GMRC, but Sibidow disbursed the money as he chose to. After 
the hdjj operations, he could only account for some USD 20,000. There is 

60 Musab Ben Ahmad, "GMRC statement". Daily Graphic, 23/3/1977, 6. Sibidow was also criti¬ 
cised by Ahmad for pushing aside the constitution and redefining it without any amendment. 
Sibidow was said to have issued directives through the press usually without consultation with 
the other executives. Even worse, he had banked and disbursed the GMRC funds alone, push¬ 
ing aside the treasurer and the financial controller. He had kept the post office box key of the 
council to himself and had alone decided what correspondence should be brought to the atten¬ 
tion of the executive council. 


Sulemana Mumuni 

documentary evidence that Sibidow travelled to Saudi Arabia and personally 
acknowledged the receipt of an amount of USD 9,000 donated to the GMRC by 
the Organisation of Islamic Conference. The entire Executive Committee had 
no idea about the transaction. 61 Already in 1979, Musab Ben Ahmad, who was 
the main critic of Sibidow, pointed out that despite the huge sums of money 
paid to the GMRC, no single educational, social or economic project had been 
undertaken and nobody was fully aware of the Council's state of accounts. 62 
Alhaji Sibdow was one the General Secretaries of the Ghana Muslim 
Representative Council. Although such critical observations were made as far 
back as 1979, the situation had not changed during the 1990s. 63 

A further problem of the GMRC as well as other Councils has been their 
lack of a secretariat. There is an office in Adabraka, which first housed the 
GMRC, the National Islamic Secretariat and currently the Federation of Muslim 
Councils. This office, however, is according to Musab Ben Ahmed nothing 
more than a meeting hall. For a long time, the permanent administrative staff 
of the various Councils did not report for duty and there was no filing or 
meaningful record keeping. As a consequence, letters and documents were 
almost always classified as confidential and kept at home. Also, for a long time 
there was no office equipment and the Adrabraka office was often closed until 
the hajj season approached. 64 In 1991, however, things slowly changed when 
the Council of Muslim Chiefs appealed to the government for assistance in the 
establishment of a secretariat for the Federation of Muslim Councils. 

Another critical matter is the failure and inability of the Islamic Councils 
to unite the different Muslim factions. Therefore various political leaders, such 
as president Hilla Limann in 1981 and Fit. Lt Jerry John Rawlings in 1991, 
have called on the Muslims to close their ranks and come together since Islam 
is a religion of peace and unity. 65 Neither have the Councils been able to 
correct the prejudices of Ghanaians against Muslims. Muslims are said to be 
actively involved in anti-social activities, such as smuggling, hoarding, black¬ 
marketing, currency trafficking and armed robbery. For example, in his 1980 
Id-al-Fitr address, president Limann declared: "I sincerely hope that after 
thirty days of fasting, you would be in a position to eschew all forms of anti¬ 
social activities ... which should be eradicated by all means from our social. 

61 Musab Ben Ahmad, "GMRC. Statement", Daily Graphic, 23/3/1979, 6. 

62 "Ben Ahmed Resigns", Daily Graphic, 2711111979, 3. He further noted that if one observed 
the multitude of Muslim girls being deprived of schooling in favour of groundnut selling, the 
great number of Muslims among the unskilled labour force, the slum conditions under which 
Muslims live in the zongos in Accra, one could not but feel concerned. Ironically, he stated, 
these were not on the agenda of the very people who claimed that they were the champions of 

63 As to the GMRC, the supervision of the Council of Muslim Chiefs leaves much to be desired, 
too. The Council does not go through the audit reports and, if possible, does not prosecute of¬ 
fenders before a new executive takes office. Furthermore, the Council of Muslim Chiefs does not 
screen office holders and also does not arrange a proper handing over to the new executives. 

64 Musab Ben Ahmad, "GMRC Statement," Daily Graphic, 23/3/1979, 6. 

65 See "Muslims Must Unite", Daily Graphic, 3/8/1981. 1, and "Ensure Islam Remains Religion 
of Unity", Daily Graphic, 16/4/1991,1. 


A Survey of Islamic Non-Governmental Organisations in Accra 

economic, political and spiritual life." 66 In similar vein Fit. Lt Jerry Rawlings 
in 1979 had already warned the Muslim community: "You Mallams and 
Alhajis should not hide behind Islam and smuggle salt. Kola, timber and 
diamonds out of the country" and noted that Muslim communities such as 
Zongo Lane, Cowlane, Tudu and Darkuman had become a World Bank 
where almost every currency was exchanged for the cedi at an inflated rate. 67 

To a large extent, the Councils have failed to achieve most of their aims 
and objectives. They have woefully failed Muslims in Accra in particular and 
Ghanaians at large in their bid to uplift the socio-economic status and condi¬ 
tions of Muslims. In addition, the traditional role of the Council as the 
organiser of the annual hajj is gradually fading away as the appointment and 
supervision of the Hajj Committee has been taken over by the National 
Commission on Culture and not the Federation of Muslim Councils since 1993. 
On the other hand, the Islamic Councils have tried to play an active role in 
Ghanaian society. They have organised prayer sessions for the success of the 
various governments and issued statements on Muslim festivities. 


In spite the fact that 'alien' African and national migrants and the indigenous 
Muslims are the three main groups that make up the Accra Muslim 
community, the national migrants seem to be pushed to the margins by the 
'alien' Africa migrants and the indigenous Muslims in Islamic activities in 
Accra. There are very few 'national' migrant controlled Islamic Organisations 
in Accra, the only one being the National Muslim Council, which was formed 
during 1979. Several reasons may be attributed to the marginalisation of the 
national migrants in Accra. First, there exists a strong social relationship 
between the national migrants and their kinfolk in the northern part of the 
country. Unlike the 'alien' African migrants, the national migrants regularly 
visit their home region and relatives there. Second, due to the close contact 
with their home regions, the national migrants pay little attention to their 
ethnic heads and religious leaders in Accra. Third, the national migrants 
usually regard their stay in Accra as only a temporary one as they hope to 
return to their home region and relatives as soon as possible. 

The formation of Islamic organisations and councils has been influenced 
by ethnic and regional motives but also through the influence of government 
and foreign action. In the pre-1972 era, Islamic organisations in Accra were 
fluctuating in their numbers. Between 1930 and 1966, five organisations were 
officially known in Accra. However, the number was reduced to two between 
1966 and 1968, but increased to three between 1968 and 1972. After 1972, the 

66 "Muslims Must Unite," Daily Graphic, 14/8/1980,1. 

67 "Don't Hide behind the Islamic Faith", Daily Graphic, 28/7/1979, p. 1. 


Sulemana Mumuni 

number of Islamic organisation has been increasing rapidly and brought 
about the proliferation of Islamic organisations in Accra. 

The activities of the pre-1972 organisations were domestic and national in 
character and orientation. They were actively engaged in social, economic, 
religious and political matters. However, the roles and activities changed in 
the post-1972 period to become more international in their outlook. The major 
concern was to secure funds from Arab and Islamic governments and 
institutions, to get scholarships to go abroad for their members, to attend 
international seminars and conferences, to organise the annual pilgrimage to 
Makkah well as to serve as representatives of international Islamic bodies in 

Islamic organisations have tried to uplift the socio-religious status of 
Muslims in Accra in particular and Ghana as a whole. They have provided 
decent places of worship and have maintained modern structures for the 
education of the youth. Further, through the existence of scholarships, Gha¬ 
naian students have been able to study in the Arab and Islamic world. An¬ 
other effort of the Islamic organisations has been to upgrade the ability of 
Muslims in reading and understanding Arabic. The organisations, especially 
those concerned with the social well being of Muslims, though not discussed in 
this study, have also cooperated with the Ghanaian government in the social, 
economic and political advancement of the country. It is of much relevance to 
also mention that the Sufi fraternities have played leading and important 
roles in the origins and development of Muslims NGOs in the country. They 
have specifically monopolised the Imamate in the country. 

However, the Islamic organisations and especially the various Islamic 
Councils, have done very little in the campaigns against teenage pregnancy, 
drugs abuse, AIDS, and environmental pollution. Neither are Islamic organi¬ 
sations actively involved in organisations such as the Ghana Journalists 
Association or the Pan-African Writers Association. They also lag behind other 
religious bodies in assisting victims of stress, particularly refugees, Ghanaian 
returnees, and flood and disaster victims. Despite the efforts to promote Islam 
and social welfare of Muslims in Ghana, much is still expected from the 
organisations, in particular the various Islamic Councils. Islamic organisations, 
unlike other religious bodies, are not at the forefront in the fight against 
national social concerns. 


A Survey of Islamic Non-Governmental Organisations in Accra 



Hajia Amina Baby Ocansey, President of the National Assembly of Muslim Women, October 

Chief Brimah Amida Peregrino, Yoruba Chief in Accra, May 1993. 

Haji Labaran Muhammed Ibrahim, General Secretary of the Council of Muslim Chiefs. 

Sebaway Zakariyya, official at the Cultural Consulate of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Accra, 
March 1993. 

Haji Suleyman Kassim Quartey, Vice National Chairman, Ghana Muslim Mission, June 1993. 
Tahiru Kamara, Librarian at the Cultural Consulate of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Accra, 
November 1992. 


Daily Graphic 
Ghanaian Times 


Ammah, Rabiatu (1999). Concretizing and Empowering Ghanaian Muslim Women for National 
Development. Insitute of African Studies, Columbia University, USA. 

Acquah, Irene (1972). Accra Survey, Accra. 

Anderson, J.N.D. (1978). Islamic Law in Africa. 2nd ed, London. 

Clarke, Peter B. (1982). West Africa and Islam, London. 

Dennis, Austin (1964). Politics in Ghana: 1946-1966, Oxford. 

Dinan, C. (1975). "Socialization in an Accra Suburb, the Zongo and Its Distinctive Sub-Culture", 
Legon Family Research Papers, 3, Institute of African Studies, Legon; 45-62. 

Dretke, James (1968). The Muslim Community in Accra. Unpublished M.A. thesis, I.A.S, University 
of Ghana, Legon. 

Mumuni, Sulemana (1994). Islamic Organizations in Accra: Their Structure, Role and Impact in the 
Proselytization of Islam. Unpublished M.Phil thesis. Religions, University of Ghana, Legon. 

Opoku, Asare K. (1977). "Religion in a Dormitory Town", IAS Research Review, 4:2, Legon, 90-91. 

Pellow, Deborah (1977). Women in Accra: Option for Autonomy, Michigan. 

Prince, J.H. (1954). "The Role of Islam in the Gold Coast Politics", Journal of the West Afi'ica Insti¬ 
tute of Social and Economic Research, 3, Ibadan, 104-11. 

Stewart, C.C. (1965), The Tijaniyya in Ghana. Unpublished M.A. thesis, I.A.S., University of 
Ghana, Legon. 

Trimingham, J.S. (1959), Islam in West Africa, London. 



The Concept of Islamic Economy as Articulated 

in Sokoto 

Social Justice and State Responsibility 1 

Holger Weiss 


The fiscal crisis of the state which has limited its possibilities for providing 
basic social welfare in developing countries during the last decades of the 
twentieth century is well-known. Although the European colonial powers had 
laid the ground for various public welfare and modernisation projects, due to 
several reasons, these projects had not achieved their aim, namely that of 
generating an improvement in the basic welfare standards of the former 
colonies. Some former colonies, such as Algeria and Egypt, tried various forms 
of state capitalism which, by the late 1970s, it had become ineffective to 
develop. Others, such as Nigeria as well as a number of other African states, 
attempted to develop a market oriented capitalism with little or limited state 
intervention. Here, also, the problems soon became overwhelming. 2 Whereas 
there was some initial success in some of these states, especially with regard to 
economic prospects, from the late 1970s onwards any success was 
overshadowed by an ever-expanding population, urbanisation and decline of 
the public sector as well as general deterioration, corruption and even state 
collapse as in Somalia and former Zaire. 

Most sub-Saharan African countries officially attempted to implement 
modified versions of socialism or state capitalism. However, since the 1980s, 
they have come under the pressure of the World Bank and IMF Structural 
Adjustment Programmes to open their economies. Thus, private enterprise 
was to be promoted by lifting regulations and the public sector was to be cut 
down to provide a mere minimum of basic services. Unsurprisingly, the social 
cost of both the deteriorating condition of economics and public services in 
parts of the South has been an ever increasing number of poor people. 

One response towards the crisis in the South has come from 'Islamic 
economists'. Initially providing a critical voice against colonialism, the colonial 
state and the colonial economy during the first half of the twentieth century, 
Islamic economists have tried to explain and address economic problems as 

1 An earlier version on this study was presented at the 1999 Helsinki workshop. 

2 Cowen and Shenton 1997, Deegan 1996, Mason 1997. 


The Concept of Islamic Economy as Articulated in Sokoto 

well as provide an 'Islamic' solution to poverty in predominantly Muslim 
countries. The general line of argumentation of the various Islamic economists 
has been to provide scope for individual economic initiative and markets, just 
as proponents of economic liberalisation do, but without losing sight of the 
responsibilities of the state and the public sector. 3 

Much of the debate of the Islamic economists has been directed towards 
the Middle Eastern countries and, in their view, the imperfect functions of the 
state and economy. 4 However, Islamic economics had since the 1940s already 
taken the double role of being both a critical system of that thought as well as a 
political tool. Thus, at the end of the twentieth century, one can find advocates 
of Islamic economics both among official representatives of the governments 
as well as among the various Islamist political groups. Islamic economics has 
become an academic subject in some Muslim countries, such as Pakistan, 
Malaysia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, 5 while comprising the cornerstones in the 
argumentation of the Islamist movements in Egypt and Algeria. In some 
cases, such as in the Sudan as well as in Pakistan and Malaysia, governments 
have tried to implement various forms of Islamic economics. 6 There is, 
however, no uniform concept of what constitutes an Islamic economy. Whereas 
most of the writings of the early Islamic economists, such as Sidiqqi and Qutb, 7 
rejected Western economic models and tried to establish an Islamic economy 
based on a return to Islamic values and ethics, modern Islamic economists 
have rejected in turn the 'revivalist' model and attempted to come to terms 
with Western economic theory without losing their genuine Islamic concepts 
of faith. 8 

Until the early 1980s, the discussion among Islamic economists was 
concentrated within the Middle East, Pakistan and the Sudan. Due to the 
impact of the Iranian revolution of 1979, there has been a world wide upsurge 
of the subject. Harvard-trained economists, such as Ziauddin Ahmad and 
some economists of the World Bank, turned towards Islamic economics and 
made it more 'fashionable'. 9 Although Islamic economics had always been 
presented as a 'third way', being situated between laissez faire capitalism and 
socialism, it was hereafter presented as an Islamic welfare state policy. 10 Since 
the 1980s, however, Islamic economics has also been debated in African 

3 Pfeifer 1997,155. See also Ahmad 1980b. 

4 El-Ghonemy 1998, 49-52. 

5 Ahmad 1980a, XVIII. 

6 See further Saleh and Ngah 1980; Ba-Yunnus 1980; Scott 1987; El-Battahani 1996a; El- 
Battahani 1996b. 

7 Siddiqi 1948; Qutb (Kotb) 1953. 

8 Among others as-Sadr 1983; Mannan 1988; Chapra 1992. 

9 See further Ahmad 1991 

10 Naqvi 1981, 80. According to Naqvi, the difference between a Western and an Islamic 
welfare state is that in the former the welfare state doctrine, namely 'from everyone according 
to his ability to everyone according to his need', has not been established according to the 
'unitary concept of life', which is perceived as being original to Islam. By Naqvi's definition, the 
'unitary concept of life' makes ethics the point of departure of an Islamic view on economics. 


Holger Weiss 

Muslim countries, being closely linked, on one hand, with the politicisation of 
Islam and, on the other hand, to the Islamisation of society. The outcome of the 
rise of various Islamist movements has been the demand for the 
implementation of Islamic law and economics. 11 

Among African countries, Nigeria occupies a special position. It is the 
most populous of the African countries and has the largest Muslim population 
in Sub-Saharan Africa. 12 However, due to its colonial history, it is unlikely that 
Nigeria can ever become a 'true' Muslim country, since roughly half of its 
population are non-Muslims. Thus, according to the Nigerian constitution, the 
country is a secular state. Yet, with the political and economic history of 
Nigeria, one which has been marked by military coups d'etat and military 
rule between 1966 and 1978 as well as 1983 and 1999, and the collapse and 
erosion of the Nigerian economy since the late 1970s, voices among some 
Nigerian Muslim scholars have been raised for a total rejection of the secular 
state and a total Islamisation of the society as well as the economy. 

The aim of this study will be to concentrate on one of the Nigerian pro¬ 
ponents of the Islamisation of Economics in Nigeria, namely Sule Ahmad 
Gusau and the 'Sokoto School of Islamic Economics'. 13 The reason for choosing 
Gusau and his writings as a case-point is mainly due to the fact that he is one of 
the few Nigerian academics who has published in the field of Islamic 
economics during the early 1990s. Unfortunately, at the time of updating this 
paper (August 2001), I have not been able to follow up Gusau's later 
argumentation about the subject. Neither was I able to follow up the 
development of Islamic economics as an academic subject at Usmanu Dan- 
fodiyo (Sokoto) university. Instead, I have been able to locate some of Sanusi 
Lamido Sanusi's contributions to the Nigerian debate about the implemen¬ 
tation of an Islamic economy in (Northern) Nigeria during 2000 and 2001. As 
such, Sanusi's papers represent an interesting continuation of the older 
"academic" debate during the early 1990s. Sanusi's arguments are presented 
in a postscript at the end of the article. 

11 See further Hallencreutz and Westerlund 1998, 4-6 as well as the case-studies by Stenberg 
1998 and Loimeier 1998. For a general overview on the politicisation of Islam in Sub-Saharan 
Africa, see Hunwick 1997, 28-54. For an account of the rise of Islamism in Africa and the 
various reasons for it, see Westerlund 1982, Westerlund 1997 and Hodgkin 1998. 

12 In fact, the Muslim population of Nigeria would count as the seventh largest Muslim com¬ 
munity, after Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Turkey and Egypt. 

13 Due to limits of space, there is no possibility to further elaborate on the whole Islamisation 
process in Nigeria. A very good introduction to the subject, as well as the various debates 
within the Muslim society of Northern Nigeria since the colonial period up to the mid-1980s, is 
presented by Loimeier 1997. Steed and Westerlund 1999 provide a general outlook of the intra- 
Muslim as well as Christian-Muslim conflicts and the rise of Islamist movements in Nigeria. On 
the general political as well as economic development of Nigeria since independence, see 
Osaghae 1998. 


The Concept of Islamic Economy as Articulated in Sokoto 

An Outline of the Concepts 

The creation of an Islamic state is perceived by Islamic economists as the 
precondition for the implementation of an Islamic economy. As long as none of 
the existing Muslim states can be regarded axiomatically as an Islamic State, 
Islamic economics cannot deal as a subject with a particular real situation. 
Rather, Islamic economics concentrates on the morals, ethics and ideals of a 
future Islamic state. Islamic economics, therefore, is normative according to its 
fundamental conception. Thus, Islamic economics can be used as an 'Islamic' 
critique of the unsatisfactory political, economic and social conditions in 
Muslim states and Muslim communities. A clear distinction is made by the 
advocates of Islamic economics between the actual conditions in Muslim states 
and the would-to-be situation in an Islamic state. None of the contemporary 
Muslim states are considered by the advocates of Islamic economics as Islamic 
states, since they were constructed on the basis of Western secular ideas of the 
nation-state and as such are the inheritors of the colonial system. Firstly, the 
shari c a is applied only to some limited extent in any of the Muslim states. 
Secondly, almost all of the Muslim regimes are considered to be corrupt. 
Thirdly, a fact which is crucial for the argumentation of the Islamic economists. 
Western economics, be it capitalism or socialism, is labelled as secular and thus 
is in contradiction to the teaching of Islam. 

According to the Islamic economists, religion has to be the basis of the 
society as a whole and the source of ethical values in particular. Further, ethics 
should dominate economics, or as the Islamic economist Syed Nawab Haider 
Naqvi 14 stresses: 

The Islamic perception of socioeconomic process is dynamic and its insistence on social 
justice is uncompromising. This is because injustice disrupts social harmony and, for 
that very reason, is unethical. To produce the best social structure, according to this 
view, man's economic endeavours should be motivated by a meaningful moral phi¬ 

The moral philosophy that Naqvi has in mind is Islam. However, contrary to 
the pre-modern discussion and disputes among Muslim scholars of Islamic 
jurisprudence, the late twentieth century debate among Islamic economists, in 
a sense, has reopened the field of applied Islamic ethics. Thus, Naqvi, among 
others, argues that Islamic ethics has to be transformed into a non-trivial, 
irreducible set of axioms to make Islamic ethics more universal. Naqvi 
introduces four axioms, namely unity, or the vertical dimension between 
Allah and man; equilibrium, or the horizontal dimension between human 
beings; free will; and, responsibility. 16 On the basis of these four axioms Naqvi 

14 Syed Nawab Haider Naqvi served during the late 1980s and early 1990s as director of the 
Pakistan Institute of Development Economics. 

15 Naqvi 1994, XVII. 

16 Naqvi 1981, 41^3, 47-56; Naqvi 1994, XVIII. 


Holger Weiss 

has proposed that an Islamic economic system should rest firmly on four basis 
hypotheses: 17 

1. Economic activity is indissolubly linked with man's ethical environment 

(unity axiom); 

2. Economic policy must aim at a 'just' balance among basic production, con¬ 

sumption, and distribution relations (equilibrium axiom); 

3. Individual economic freedom and state control should be 'suitably' com¬ 

bined to reflect the distinctive Islamic concept of human freedom 18 (free 
will axiom); 

4. A conscious policy of redistribution of income and wealth, as well as re¬ 

source transfers among the various classes and groups of the society, must 
be applied when the existing pattern of distribution is not 'just' from the 
Islamic point of view 19 (responsibility axiom). 

One key argument of the advocates of Islamic economics (or rather Islamic 
economic ethics) has been that the aim of an 'Islamic system' must be on 
maximising 'total' welfare and not just 'marginal' welfare. The basic policy 
objectives to achieve this goal are considered to be four, namely social justice, 
universal education, economic growth and maximising employment 
generation. Islam is also normative for the choice of policy instruments to 
achieve the basic policy objectives. Thus, within an Islamic system, the policy 
instruments that are identified to achieve social justice have to deal with the 
institution of private property, the ownership of the means of production, 
growth-promoting policies and the social security system. As the key element 
of the whole system is the question of social justice, as well as the social security 
system, I will further return to on these questions below. 20 

Social justice forms the cornerstone of the Islamic economic system. The 
argument of the Islamic economists, such as Naqvi, is that social justice is based 
on the principle that all that exists in the Universe belongs to God, man being 
God's vice-regent on earth and holding the bounties of God only in trust. This 

17 Naqvi, 1981, 62, slightly revised and extended in Naqvi 1994, 55. 

18 According to Naqvi, individual freedom should be guaranteed but can be regulated by the 
state if it becomes inconsistent with social and collective welfare (Naqvi 1994, 55). 

19 Naqvi's argument is that although Islam does accept individual freedom as an absolute 
value, Islam also puts limits on it when the exercise of personal freedom becomes obviously 
inconsistent with social well-being, thus conflicting with the responsibility axiom (Naqvi 1994, 
55-56). In his earlier book, Naqvi highlighted the distinction between the rights of the individ¬ 
ual agent and the needs and provisions required by the collective which he/she indisputably 
belongs to (Naqvi 1981, 46). 

20 On the other basic objectives and policy instruments, see further Naqvi 1981, 90-95, 98-103, 
105-06 and Naqvi 1994, 88-107. In his latter work, Naqvi has enlarged the four objectives to 
five, including individual freedom, distributive justice, economic growth, universal education 
and maximum employment generation. His change of concepts, distributive instead of social 
justice, is due to a re-definition of his earlier argumentation. With regard to the policy instru¬ 
ments, however, there is no difference between the two texts. 


The Concept of Islamic Economy as Articulated in Sokoto 

principle is the basic concept of Islam, namely the unity of God. Man is thus 
only a trustee, never an absolute owner. According to Islam, man has a duty to 
do justice and an obligation to give and share. Therefore, as every man is 
equal before God this also implies the equality of all men in relation to each 
other. Although man should receive what is due to him by virtue of his 
productive effort (free will axiom), those who cannot work due to various 
acceptable reasons should receive adequate income to cover their basic needs, 
irrespective of the level of their productive effort. 21 However, equality is not 
an absolute norm according to contemporary Islamic economists, but a relative 
one. The basic welfare criterion is that if, and only if, a relatively equal 
distribution of income and wealth today would lead to lower future social 
welfare, then a more unequal distribution should be preferred. 22 

An elaborate social security system is perceived as an integral part of an 
Islamic economy. The Islamic economists agree in theory that the key idea is 
the transfer of resources from the rich to the poor. However, they disagree on 
the question of state intervention. According to Naqvi, the state must 
intervene to equalise the total utility of social consumption and to create a 
social balance, 23 whereas others, such as Umar Chapra, advocate a more 
limited degree of state intervention 24 Thus for Naqvi, the process of income 
equalisation, buttressed by state legislation, should continue until 'the poor 
become honourable members of the society'. 25 

Islamic economists have argued that an Islamic social security system 
can, and should, only be financed through legal ways of taxation, in particular 
through z akat. However, it has become painfully evident that the original legal 
model of Islamic taxation has become difficult to apply in the postcolonial 
Muslim states. Although Siddiqi, who was among the first modern Islamic 
economists, still regarded z akat, the poor rate or obligatory alms, as the sole 
basis for financing an Islamic social security system, 26 later writers are rather 
sceptical and emphasise other possible arrangements for taxation. 27 Naqvi 
goes even further by arguing that additional taxation should be imposed if 
the z akat funds are not sufficient 28 whereas the Iraqi scholar, Baqlr Sadr, 
argued that neither z akat nor the Islamic insurance system are sufficient in 

21 Namely those who cannot work due to sickness, old age or other handicaps. 

22 Naqvi 1981, 86-90; Naqvi 1994, 89-91. In his earlier work, Naqvi even argued in favour of 
the use of violence to destroy unequal distribution systems and emphasised that 'the 
preference of Islam to avoid social upheavals comes into play only when socially just conditions 
have already been established' (1981, 88). 

23 Naqvi 1981,103. 

24 Chapra 1992, 223-24. 

25 Naqvi 1981, 104. Naqvi strengthens this argument in his later work by underlining that in all 
cases of entitlement failure, when economic agents are deprived of their means of livelihood, 
state action will be required to rectify the situation (Naqvi 1994,104-05). 

26 Siddiqi 1948, 8-9. 

27 Mannan 1970, 289. See also Chapra 1992, 270-75. According to Chapra, zakdt can only give 
temporary assistance and is no substitute for a modern social insurance system. 

28 Naqvi 1981,104; Naqvi 1994,105. 


Holger Weiss 

themselves to ensure a just distribution of income and wealth. 29 These 
statements could not have been made by the pre-modern Muslim scholars 
since they would have been regarded as more or less equal to apostasy, bide? 
or 'unlawful' innovations. 30 

Islamic Economics as an Academic Subject 

Islamic economics during the 1990s has become an established subject at 
Usmanu Danfodiyo University in Sokoto (formerly Sokoto university). As 
such, the development of the study of Islamic economics in Sokoto reflects the 
rising demands for the Islamisation of society in Northern Nigeria, a process 
which started during the 1970s. 31 This is shown by the fact that, prior to the 
establishment of Sokoto university in the extreme Northwest of Nigeria in 
1975, only Abdullahi Bayero College (now Bayero University) in Kano had an 
Islamic Studies Department. 32 When Sokoto university was established, the 
Faculty of Arts and Islamic Studies was to become one of the core faculties, but, 
as in Kano, it mainly concentrated upon the humanities, religious studies, 
literature and Arabic. The promotion of Islamic literature and learning was 
concentrated to the Centre for Islamic Studies. At this stage, however, the 
Department of Economics showed no interest in Islamic economics. 33 

Things changed in Sokoto during 1984 when the Department of Eco¬ 
nomics presented a new Undergraduate Syllabus. For the first time some 
courses in Islamic economics were incorporated into the syllabus although 
students could only take Islamic Economics as a minor subject 34 During 1990, 
the undergraduate syllabus was reviewed once again and the courses in 

29 Wilson 1998, 53. 

30 However, Naqvi is correct in stressing the point that zakat, according to some of the schools 
of law, does not have to be paid to the state but can be directly given to the poor, thus creating 
a situation where there would be insufficient funds for the public security system. See further 
Aghnides 1916 and al-Qardawi 1999. 

31 Ibrahim 1991. The Muslim Students Society (MSS), which had already been founded in 1954, 
played a crucial role in the politicisation of Islam in Nigeria. 

32 Abdullahi Bayero College had been founded as the School of Arabic Studies during 1960. 
Two years later the institution was renamed and integrated as the Faculty of Arabic and Islamic 
Studies into Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) in Zaria. The college was given university status 
during 1976 and renamed as Bayero University Kano (BUK). ABU was founded during 1960 in 
Kano as Ahmadu Bello College, but was moved during 1962 to Zaria when it was given univer¬ 
sity status. Today, there are departments for Islamic studies at the universities in Zaria, Kano, 
Sokoto, Maiduguri and Ibadan (Reichmuth 1993,191,198; Zahradeen 1986). 

33 Gusau and Abdullahi 1995, 34-35. 

34 Despite the effort of lifting up Islamic economics as an academic subject, at that time it still 
suffered from a lack of teaching material, not to speak of more specialised literature. This, how¬ 
ever, is not surprising as the main bulk of theoretical literature on Islamic Economics has been 
produced during the 1980s and 1990s. Taken together, a student in economics at Sokoto univer¬ 
sity could take a total of 12 units in Islamic economics out of a total minimum of 63 units. Heavy 
emphasis has been laid on the studies of zakat, the obligatory alms or the poor tax, as it was 
regarded by the Islamic economists as one of the key objectives within Islamic economics 
(Gusau and Abdullahi 1995, 37-38). 


The Concept of Islamic Economy as Articulated in Sokoto 

Islamic economics were enlarged. Since Islamic economics continued to be a 
minor subject, the majority of the courses were on "ordinary" economics. 35 
Courses in Islamic economics have put a rather strong emphasis on theory, 
which is not surprising since there has never been a 'pure' Islamic economy, 
not to mention a modern equivalent of what a past Islamic economy might 
have been. 36 Also, there is a somewhat heavy concentration on zakat and the 
Islamic concept of welfare, which can be understood as a kind of academic 
criticism of the lack of state responsibility towards its citizens in contemporary 
Nigeria. A curious phenomenon is the emphasis which the syllabus places 
upon the Sokoto Caliphate and its three most important scholars, namely 
Shehu Usman dan Fodio, Abdullahi dan Fodio and Muhammad Bello. There 
seems to be a clear need to perceive the Sokoto Caliphate —together with the 
era of the Prophet and the Khalifa ar-Rashidun—as the 'golden' era of the 
Islamic state as well as the existence of an Islamic economy, as will be pointed 
out below. 

However, despite the efforts of the Department of Economics and its 
teaching staff, Islamic economics still has a long way to go before it will 
achieve recognition among the academics as well as the students in Nigeria. 
Gusau and Abdullahi have given six reasons for why Islamic Economics has 
not been recognised as a major subject and have pointed out the major 
problems of the subject. First, there is opposition among "secular" and espe¬ 
cially young Muslim and Christian teachers at Usmanu Danfodiyo University 
towards an Islamisation of knowledge; second, Islamic Economics is not re¬ 
garded by the National Universities Commission (NUC) of Nigeria as a 
scientific subject; third, students are sceptical about their possibilities of 
finding a job if they were to hold a degree in Islamic instead of mainstream 
Economics; fourth, as is usual in Nigeria, the lack of funds is a major problem 
and the department has not been able to devote large sums to research and 
publications in any kind of economics; fifth, and following from the above, is 
the shortage of teaching materials; lastly, is the lack of government backing 
for the process of Islamisation. 37 

Despite the above problems, the Department of Economics at Usmanu 
Danfodiyo University has become one of the major centres of research on 
Islamic Economics in Sub-Saharan Africa. It has close links with the Centre for 
Research in Islamic Economics, Jeddah, the Islamic University of Islamabad 
and the Islamic International University of Malaysia in Bandung. Apart from 
the establishment of networks between Sokoto and the centres for research on 
Islamic economics, the scholars in Sokoto have tried hard to produce articles 

35 After the 1990 review, a student is able to take a maximum of 23 units in Islamic economics 
out of a total of 160 units. See Appendix I for an outline of the units in Islamic economics 
taught at the Department of Economics. 

3(1 The reason for this is that one basic precondition for an Islamic economy is the existence of 
an Islamic state, and, according to Islamic economists, there has never existed such a state 
apart from the short era of the Prophet and the first two Caliphs Abu Bakr and Umar. See 
further Aziz 1992. 

37 Gusau and Abdullahi 1995, 53-56. 


Holger Weiss 

and studies on Islamic economics. One reason for their efforts is the lack of 
applied literature on Islamic economics for the Nigerian setting. In this paper, I 
will concentrate on two fields of writing, namely the question of social justice 
and welfare within an Islamic setting and, secondly, the symbolic value of the 
Sokoto Caliphate. The bulk of the papers are written by two scholars, Sule 
Ahmad Gusau and Ibrahim Sulaiman. Gusau has been a lecturer at the 
Department of Economics at Usmanu Danfodiyo University since 1981 and 
belongs to the core advocates of Islamic economics in Nigeria. Sulaiman has 
taught at the Centre of Islamic Studies at ABU and is a founding member of 
the Council of Ulama. 38 Both Gusau and Sulaiman also belong to a branch of 
scholars who could be labelled as 'revivalist' with regard to their writings on 
the Sokoto Caliphate and its legacy. 

Individual and Collective Obligations 

Islamic ethics distinguishes between personal and collective obligations. An 
individual or personal obligation, termed fard c ayn, is an act that every Muslim 
must personally perform. It comprises duties such as the confession of faith 
( shahada ), the five daily prayers (salat), fasting during the month of Ramadan 
(sawn), the pilgrimage (hajj) and the payment of poor dues (z akat). Collective 
obligations, fard kifdyah, on the other hand, consist of duties incumbent upon 
the community as a whole. A fard kifdyah is an act which every person is under 
the obligation to perform, until a sufficient number of persons have performed 
it, the rest being then absolved from this obligation. These obligations are 
considered to be imperative, fard, and have been established by shari c a 
evidence and for which there is no room for doubt. Further, to help perform a 
fard is itself considered a fard f 9 

Fard c ayn is regarded by Gusau as the basis of social welfare in Islam. 
Gusau refers to four conditions which establish the personal obligations that, if 
adequate, would make public intervention unnecessary. These conditions are 
the obligation to support the family; the obligation to support close relatives; 
the obligation to pay z akat and the obligation to pay kaffara (expiations, which 
are distributed to the poor at a funeral or as atonements for a sin) when an 
offence is committed or as a compulsory duty. 40 Gusau derives his conclusions 
first and foremost from the Qur'an and the sunna. Although he also refers to 
the discussion among the juridical opinions belonging to the four established 

38 The Council of Ulama was founded by Muslim intellectuals in 1986. It has been involved in 
criticising both the military regime as well as those religious leaders who have co-operated and 
collaborated with the regime. See further Loimeier 1997, 291-95, 302-14. On the role of Ibrahim 
Sulaimen, in particular, see 311-12. 

39 Aghnides 1916, 112. There is, however, a difference among the Muslim scholars in the 
definition of terminology, such as fard, 'imperative', and wajlb, 'obligatory'. Wnjib is an act whose 
value has been established by shari c a evidence about which there is doubt, such as the giving of 
alms for breaking the fast orzakat al-fitr (Aghnides 1916, 205). 

40 Gusau 1993b, 113. 


The Concept of Islamic Economy as Articulated in Sokoto 

Muslim schools of law, Gusau does not connect himself to a specific opinion on 
the law. 

Gusau considers that support by the husband for his family is the most 
important form of charity. Next to the support of the family comes the obli¬ 
gation to support near relatives. In both cases, Gusau refers extensively to the 
disputation among the jurists of whom to include within these categories. 
Overall, he gives a very patriarchal interpretation of the family with regard to 
the position of the husband and wife/wives. Thus, according to Gusau, 
women and children are considered as the 'weaker' members of the 
household who must be cared for by the 'stronger' member, namely the 
father or the husband. However, Gusau emphasises that the obligation of the 
husband/father should correspond to the man's means and/or social custom. 
Especially problematic is his interpretation of the question of the wife's 
maintenance ( nafaqat ), where it is unclear whether he considers the marriage 
as a contract between two independent economic entities (man and woman) or 
if the 'weaker sex', the woman, has an actual right to demand support of her 
husband. 41 

Together with the obligation to pay z akat and raffara, in an ideal situation 
there should be no need for other obligations to ensure the social welfare of the 
community. However, Gusau notes that raffara, as well as the payment of the 
z akat al-fitr, do not provide a continuous source of revenue for the poorer 
members of the community. Thus, there is a need for collective obligations to 
ensure social welfare for the community as a whole. 42 

Gusau's use of the concepts of fard c ayn and fard kifdyah could suggest a 
distinction between personal and public obligations and responsibilities. It is 
therefore interesting, but not surprising for a Muslim scholar, that he puts z akat 
both into fard c ayn and fard kifdyah. The payment of zakdt implies an individual 
personal obligation, whereas the distribution and, especially, the purposes of 
zakdt are determined by and handled as collective or public obligations. Thus, 
both the person, as well as the state, is tied to the rules about zakdt, the person 
by the conditions of payment, the state by its expenditure. Also, Gusau rightly 
puts zakdt al-fitr into the category of personal duties with no reference to any 
public obligations. 43 

Gusau's interpretation of collective obligations rests on two concepts, 
namely voluntary charity (infaq) and state imposed charity. According to 
Gusau, charity is voluntary as far as an individual person is concerned, but for 
the community as a whole it is obligatory. Gusau relates voluntary charity to 
four concepts, which, taken together as a whole, determine the concept of fard 
kifdyah. These four concepts are the concept of the nature of man's life as a 

41 Ibid., 114-18. 

42 Ibid., 126. 

43 Aghnides emphasises that the main difference between zakdt and zakdt al-fitr is that while 
both are morally obligatory, the latter does not come under state control and lies entirely with 
the person himself (Aghnides 1916, 207 footnote 3). However, this distinction has not been so 
clear in some of the writings of the Muslim jurists, including those in the Sokoto Caliphate. See 
Weiss 1998. 


Holger Weiss 

test; 44 the concept of trusteeship; the concept of vice-regency and that of 
brotherhood and solidarity 45 Together these four concepts enlarge the 
spectrum of fard c ayn to include the obligation to support 'other poverty 
groups' not covered by fard c ayn, such as neighbours, orphans and the non¬ 
begging poor. However, Gusau confines himself to referring only to the ob¬ 
ligation to give sadaqa, voluntary alms or to provide financial means for in¬ 
stitutions such as ivaqf religious endowments. 46 

Voluntary charity would be enough to secure welfare in an ideal society, 
but not in the real world. Since Islam provides a person with Free Will, he / she 
might decline to fulfil his or her obligations if he / she chooses to do so. 
Therefore, as Gusau as well as the majority of Muslim jurists have stated, if the 
'rich' do not aid the 'poor', the state may intervene to enhance the right of the 
poor. Thus, for Gusau, the raison d'etre of the state is the fulfilment of common 
needs of humanity to the society as a whole. The state, together with the 'rich', 
have the responsibility to provide for the social welfare of the 'people' from 
the revenues such as fay (public property), ghanlma (booty), khardj (land tax), 
and jizya (poll tax on non-Muslim subjects). Gusau concludes that the 
responsibility of the Public Treasury, bayt al-mdl, is to take care of the poor and 
the needy, to pay their debts and to help them to obtain a marriage partner if 
they are too poor to acquire one for themselves. However, Gusau emphasises 
that the needs that are satisfied at any time depend on whether voluntary 
charity is not sufficient, or is not available or is 'going in the wrong direction', 
thus leaving it to the 'state' to determine when and how to provide help. 47 

Gusau recognises a basic problem of the ideal model of state responsi¬ 
bilities. Although the Muslim jurists have obliged the state and the rich to 
provide for the poor, there does not seem to be any provision for enforcing that 
right. Thus, Gusau assumes that the whole question of provisioning by the 
state depends on the magnanimity of the government. 48 In fact, he leaves this 
whole question open, which considerably weakens his argument. Another 
question, which neither he nor any other of the Islamic economists or Muslim 
jurists have addressed, is the root causes of poverty. Gusau, as well as the bulk 
of Muslim scholars, take it for granted that poverty exists within a particular 
community, especially that of the umma, the community of believers. In fact, 
neither the concept oifard c ayn nor that oifard kifayah are conceived upon the 
assumption that the alleviation of poverty is the main purpose of action. This is 
why modern scholars of Islamic economics, such as Naqvi, have tried to 

44 According to Islam, wealth is considered as a test of man so that Allah will see if it is used for 
the welfare of fellow human beings. Deriving from this notion comes the idea of 'purification' 
of wealth by the payment of zakat. See Basher 1993. 

45 The concepts of vice-regency as well as solidarity and brotherhood are derived from the con¬ 
cept of trusteeship. The general understanding is that the rich members of the community 
have an obligation to ensure the welfare for the unfortunate members of the society. 

46 Gusau 1993b, 126-31. 

47 Ibid., 131-36. 

48 Ibid., 139. 


The Concept of Islamic Economy as Articulated in Sokoto 

reopen the question of poverty and have proposed far-reaching social and 
economic changes in social structures. 49 However, Gusau, is more 'traditional' 
in that he declines to address, or to elaborate upon issues, such as the need for 
land reform, which might deal with the root causes of poverty. 

Debating Social Justice and Welfare 

One of the key arguments among the advocates of Islamic economics is the 
need for an Islamic social security system. Such a system should guarantee a 
'minimum livelihood', such as food, clothing, shelter, medical care, marriage 
allowances and education 'to every citizen of the state that is incapable of 
providing the same for himself'. 30 There is, however, no consensus among the 
scholars about the role of the state. As mentioned in the previous section, 
Gusau, for example, does not agree with a general minimum responsibility of 
the state but regards state intervention merely as the 'last resort'. 51 In Gusau's 
mind, there is a clear distinction between the community and the state and for 
him, as a Muslim scholar in Nigeria, the present state cannot become an 
Islamic state. Instead, the Muslim community within that state should be 
strengthened. Secondly, by referring to Ibn Taimfya and his rigorous 
definition of who would be entitled to receive help through an 'Islamic social 
security system', Gusau excludes the 'parasites of society', such as 'loafers', 
and/or those who have become bankrupt due to 'indulgence', 'extravagance' 
and 'illegalities'. 52 Clearly, Gusau's view is more of a political statement, 
criticising present conditions in Nigeria, than a theoretical elaboration of the 
Islamic social security system. 

The objectives of an Islamic social security system, according to Gusau, 
are to enable the spiritual and social uplifting of the poor as well as the alle¬ 
viation of poverty. While Gusau also stresses the provision of compensation 
for augmenting inadequate earnings without destroying incentives to earn, it 
is his stress upon poverty alleviation and the provision of an adequate stan¬ 
dard of living which is my concern here. 

Gusau makes a distinction between two types of poor people. First, there 
are those who are capable of productive potential but do not have the means to 
become productive. Second, there are those who are not capable of doing any 
work, due to physical handicaps, mental sickness or age. According to Gusau, 
the objective of poverty alleviation is concentrated on the first type of poverty, 
whereas the objective of providing adequate living standards covers the 

49 Naqvi 1994, 99-103. 

50 Gusau 1993a, 79. 

51 Gusau 1993a: 78-80; see Wilson 1998 on the various positions about state intervention among 
Islamic economists. Gusau is of the opinion that government responsibility comes only after 
other 'arms of the society', such as family, relatives, neighbourhood or the community, have 
failed to provide help. 

52 Gusau 1993a, 80; on the economic concepts of Ibn Taimrya, see Islahi 1988. 


Holger Weiss 

second type. 53 In the case of the poverty alleviation, Gusau supports the view 
of unrestrained giving, 'sufficient to uproot poverty and put the recipient on 
his or her feet', without clarifying what would be 'sufficient'. He stresses that 
such a policy has to be tied to the question of disincentives and resource 
availability, again without giving the problem more significance. Instead, 
Gusau's main concern is about the various positions of the Muslim scholars on 
the principle of giving, especially the question of whether there should be any 
upper and lower limits on what may be given to a recipient. His own 
conclusion is that there should be no limits. 54 

The aim of a policy of unrestricted giving is partly to change the socio¬ 
economic structures, although Gusau is rather vague on this question because 
his aim is to 'attack the base (of poverty) by offering the victim [a] job to do or 
by aiding him with sufficient necessary capital'. 55 Gusau touches on one key 
problem, namely that neither the Qur'an nor the sunna are very clear about 
the question of the distribution of obligatory alms (z akat). Although recipients 
are identified as, among others, 'the poor and the needy', it is by no means 
clear who they are and what they should receive. Some jurists, such as al- 
Ghazall, have tried to give a thorough account of the various cases of poverty 
and need and what each recipient could receive 56 but Gusau does not take this 
question any further. 

The same need for clarification also arises out of Gusau's aim for the 
provision of an adequate living standard. Gusau emphasises that the state is 
obligated to provide an adequate standard of living whenever the need arises 
in the absence of other avenues of support. Further, the provisions should be 
adequate to satisfy needs. However, Gusau does not provide any explanation 
of what he considers as 'adequate', and his statement that his notion of 
'adequate' is tantamount to that of 'enough' in the hadith, from which he has 
quoted, does not provide an effective analytical tool. On the other hand, it 
seems as if Gusau has some kind of distinction in mind when he distinguishes 
between a 'minimum guarantee', which is not 'enough', and 'adequate 
guarantee' which might seem to be 'enough'. 57 

Apart from the idea of alleviating poverty and providing an adequate 
standard of living, the provision of help in the cases of temporary or perma¬ 
nent contingencies is perceived as an obligation 58 The obligation of provision 

53 Gusau 1993a, 84. 

54 Ibid., 84-89. 

55 Ibid., 84. 

56 Al-Ghazall 1966, 53-60. 

57 Gusau 1993a, 90. On the concept of 'minimum basic needs', Gusau quotes al-Ghazall. Ac¬ 
cording to al-Ghazall, minimum basic needs include food, shelter, medical care, education and 
such other goods and services considered necessary according to social customs (Gusau 1993a, 

58 Gusau includes, under 'temporary contingencies', unemployment, widowhood, sickness, 
maternity and child birth, pursuit of studies and travelling. 'Permanent contingencies' include 
blindness, severe mental illness, serious and persistent illness and decrepitude. 


The Concept of Islamic Economy as Articulated in Sokoto 

derives from fard kifayah, but Gusau locates it within the sphere of the Islamic 
social security system and, thus, the state. 

However, if an Islamic social security system were to be set up in practice, 
it would soon face serious problems. First, the unclear definitions of concepts 
and categories make the system vulnerable to abuse. Secondly, there would 
be dangers of bureaucratisation and fraud. Again, as Gusau is clearly 
addressing the malfunctioning and non-existent public welfare system of 
Nigeria, he is not in favour of a total implementation of a public Islamic social 
security system. Thus, instead of advocating the idea of a 'strong' state, he 
stresses a 'minimal' state interference. For one thing, he argues, there should 
be as little incentive as possible for somebody to seek resources from a social 
security system. In this case, Gusau follows a rather restrictive course of 
argumentation, based mainly on the Qur'an and the sunna. First, work should 
be encouraged and begging should be discouraged. In fact, Gusau defines 
work as a fard kifayah, as it is performed for the survival of the community. 
Begging, on the other hand, is severely condemned, except "for those 
genuinely in need of it". 59 Further, mere unemployment is not, according to 
Gusau, a sufficient ground for a share of social security benefit. The 
unemployed person has to prove that he / she is impoverished by this 
condition, that he/she does not have an alternative income and that his/her 
unemployment does not arise from complacency. 60 

Zakat as articulated in Sokoto 

As has become evident from the two articles by Gusau which have been ex¬ 
tensively presented in the previous two sections, zakat forms the cornerstone of 
any Islamic social welfare system. The material basis for such a system, be it 
run by the state or the community, would be realised through the zakat. Thus, 
the very question of whether such a system would, or could, function is based 
on the concept of zakat —who pays, how much, who distributes it and to whom. 
Zakat, as a concept, is both a challenge and a source of conflicting arguments, 
because it is both a religious duty as well as a social tax. In fact, no other fiscal- 
cum-religious concept has been analysed more extensively and intensively by 
Muslim scholars than zakat. However, some Islamic economists, such as Arif, 
stress that it would be naive to think that zakat would be sufficient to run an 
economy and he rejects the idea that zakat could be the basis of the fiscal system 
of a modern Islamic economy. 61 Others would argue that zakat is some kind of 

59 However, here again, the sunna is rather unclear in which situation one is allowed to beg, as 
the Prophet is quoted to have said 'in a situation which makes it necessary", although he also 
has tried to define such a situation as when 'a person who is in grinding poverty, one who is in 
serious debt, or one who is responsible for blood wit and finds it difficult to pay" (Gusau 1993a, 
104). In fact, this would give ample of loopholes for a beggar to find excuses to beg. 

60 Gusau 1993a, 104-05. 

61 Arif 1993, 12. He even goes further and complains that there has been too much emphasise 
on zakat in the literature and argues for the device of a modern Islamic tax system, but such a 


Holger Weiss 

'Sampo', 62 namely that the implementation of zakat in an Islamic economy 
would create all the good things that would be desirable from an Islamic 

There is little doubt that Gusau and his co-writer Bawa belong to the 
advocates of the Sampo- model. According to these authors, the implementation 
of zakat would generate both economic and spiritual development. Gusau and 
Bawa stress the point that no exogenous considerations, economic or political, 
and no fiscal contingency, except that related to zakat, would be allowed by 
Islamic economic authorities to curtail the social welfare expenditure below 
the quantity raised through zafoff. 63 Zakat would improve human resources 
since it could be used to build schools, as well as to provide health and medical 
care. Further: 

It may also be used to finance researches in agriculture, industry and technology; to 
provide scholarships for scholars in professions like engineering, finance, medicine, 
which are very important for development. [Also] for the campaign of public enlight¬ 
enment against frauds, dishonesty, cheating and other kinds of evils [as well as] for 
providing weaponry and other defence equipment, for the training of soldiers, for re¬ 
searchers in weaponry, military hardware etc. All these help development.^ 4 

Apart from the improvement of human resources, zakat is expected to generate 
the expansion of useful production as well as the improvement of the quality 
of life by creating employment and social security. Another goal is to achieve 
a balanced development through the redistribution of wealth and the local 
disbursement of zakat funds. Gusau and Bawa also expect that the 
implementation of zakat would reduce Muslim countries from being de¬ 
pendent upon development aid from non-Muslim countries while creating 
more integration among Muslim countries. They are also convinced that zakat 
would encourage a growth of national income by encouraging people with 
idle assets to put them into productive investment and to encourage people to 
work. Last but not least, zakat would enable the means to be assembled for 
poverty alleviation. 65 

However, the main aim of zakat should be the spiritual uplifting and, 
especially, the spiritual development of Muslims. Gusau and Bawa present a 
religious-legal argument in favour of zakat, stressing the combined effect of its 
character as worship and the purification of the wealth and mind: 

The virtues created by charity, both in the rich and the poor, lead to spiritual 
upliftment. The spending itself takes away the soul from the love of material into the 
love of God and into earnest preparation for the hereafter, while the reverse takes 

system could be only implemented after a thorough discussion on the Islamic criteria for such 

62 Sampo is a mysterious object often referred to in the mythological songs of the Finns. It has 
the potency to provide various forms of prosperity. Usually it is portrayed as a magic mill or 
money spinner. 

63 Gusau and Bawa 1995,114. 

64 Ibid., 112. 

65 Ibid., 114-19. 


The Concept of Islamic Economy as Articulated in Sokoto 

away from the love of God and the preparation for the hereafter. Generosity leads to 
paradise while miserliness leads to hell fire. 66 

Next, Gusau and Bawa identify eight problems that could arise due to the 
implementation of zakat if it 'is not handled well'. First, there is a possible 
negative influence on work as people might refuse to work and take zakat 
instead. However, Gusau and Bawa stress that this is unlikely to happen due 
to the strict rules of the disbursement of zakat, but they also account for the 
major role that the state can play in controlling the system. Second, zakat may 
encourage some people to retire early, but here again the state should set up a 
minimum retirement law to prevent this possibility. Third, zakat may cause 
labour supply to fall, but Gusau and Bawa do not consider this to be likely. 
Fourth, a generous zakat system may cause people to lose their zeal for 
learning and become lazy, but Gusau and Bawa believe that the opposite 
would actually be the case. Fifth, zakat could reduce earning, and sixth, zakat 
may depress investment through lower savings, but, again, Gusau and Bawa 
do not believe this to be likely. Seventh, a generous zakat system may en¬ 
courage the poor to have more children and aggravate the population prob¬ 
lem but, according to Gusau and Bawa, the increase of population should not 
be understood as a problem but as the actual goal of Islam. Last, a generous 
zakat system would make family members independent, which could make 
women feel less compelled to live with their husbands. However, Gusau and 
Bawa are convinced that the Islamic custom of marriage prevents such a 
'horrifying' development. 67 

The Ideal of an Islamic Government 

Much of Gusau's and others' writings on Islamic economics in Nigeria has two 
aspects. On one hand, the advocates of Islamic economics are trying to develop 
a holistic approach to the present economic and political problems of 
Nigeria. 68 This holistic approach puts emphasis on moral and ethical values 
which ought to dominate economic and political policies. Religion is primary 
and, due to the Islamic approach, Islamic law and the norms of Islam cannot be 
overruled. Contrary to the impression conveyed above, therefore, Gusau and 
others in Nigeria are imagining the possibilities of an Islamic economy as 
much as making political statements on present conditions in Nigeria. 

On the other hand, the holistic approach of the Nigerian Islamic econo¬ 
mists is also an attempt to identify a situation when a past Islamic state had 
lived up to the ideal model that is presented by contemporary Islamic 
economists. The general concept in the Muslim world is that the Prophet had 
established this ideal model in Medina when he combined his rule over the 

66 Gusau and Bawa 1995,117. 

67 Ibid., 119-21. 

68 Gusau 1995. 


Holger Weiss 

community of the believers with that of the city of Medina. The general ar¬ 
gument is that this religious-political state community was living up to the 
ideal of a just society . 69 For twentieth century Islamic economists, as for pre¬ 
vious Muslim writers, the actual existence of the ideal community in history is 
seen as the best and only proof for the superiority of their approach. In fact, 
many of the arguments of the Nigerian Islamic economists conform very 
closely to the idea of a past existing reality. However, the growth of Islamic 
studies in Northern Nigeria has brought up another ideal state which could, 
and should, serve as a model for contemporary Nigeria. This ideal state is the 
Sokoto Caliphate. 

Contrary to the Western academic picture of the Sokoto Caliphate, the use 
of the Caliphate among the Nigerian advocates of Islamic economics is based 
on the ideological legacy of it . 70 The various attempts by Muslim Nigerian 
scholars to idealise the Caliphate must therefore be understood as part of their 
apologetic discussion about the ideal state in the real world and not as 
historical research on the political or fiscal economy of the Caliphate. The 
idealistic perspective that equates the Sokoto Caliphate with an Islamic state is 
made obvious because the Muslim Nigerian texts present the theoretical 
outlines of the principles of the political rule and fiscal administration of the 
'founding fathers' of the Caliphate, Usman dan Fodio, his brother Abdullahi 
dan Fodio and his son Muhammad Bello, the first Caliph . 71 What is lacking 
are investigations on how the teachings of the 'founding fathers' were 
implemented and followed. In other words, if the Sokoto Caliphate was ruled 
according to the principles of Islamic economy, how did it function in practice? 

The investigations of, for instance, Sulaiman and Gusau on the Sokoto 
Caliphate should not be presumed to be historical studies on the implemen¬ 
tation of Islamic economics but rather as political statements about what 
constitutes the ideal Islamic state in a Nigerian setting . 72 

69 Siddiqi 1948, V-VII; Mannan 1970, 283. 

70 The historiography of the Sokoto Caliphate is complex. The basic arguments are not con¬ 
tested, such as that the Sokoto Caliphate was established as the outcome of a victorious militant 
Islamic reform movement during the early nineteenth century and that the aim of the key fig¬ 
ures of the movement was to establish an Islamic state (Last 1967; Hiskett 1973). However, 
there is little agreement about the impact of the Caliphate. For those who benefited from the 
relative political stability and economic growth during the nineteenth century, the Caliphate 
was the golden age. But for those who were on the margins or outside of this development, the 
Caliphate could never be the perfect society. Thus, twentieth century Western and Western- 
influenced academic research paints a rather conflicting picture about the Sokoto Caliphate 
(Last 1989; Weiss 1997). However, this is not surprising since the aim of academic research has 
been the historical development and actual impact of the Caliphate. For a critical discussion on 
Nigerian academic historiography, see Kaese 1999. 

71 See, for example, Kani and Gandi (eds) 1990 as well as Malami and Sabir 1993. 

72 See, for example, Sulaiman 1986. 


The Concept of Islamic Economy as Articulated in Sokoto 

In our time of materialism, injustice, inequality, irreligiousness and other evil, it would 
be very useful to emulate the Sokoto Caliphate leaders with respect to their policies, of 
course with some modifications, to suit contemporary needs. 73 

Thus, Sulaiman, in one of his monographs, sets out a theory of government 
and gives the outlines of a public welfare system. Although his argument is 
based on the most influential theoretical treatises of Usman dan Fodio, 
Abdullahi dan Fodio and Muhammad Bello on the principles of a Muslim 
government and how to rule an Islamic state, Sulaiman provides an account of 
the responsibilities and obligations of a modern Islamic government. 
Sulaiman argues that the purpose of government responsibility is to preserve 
public morality, through the regulation of markets and the promotion of social 
justice in society. Though using the treatises of the above-mentioned three 
'founding fathers', Sulaiman accuses the then secular-military Nigerian 
government of Babangida of moral bankruptcy, because it does not safeguard 
the spiritual values of Islam, ensuring that proper standards of hygiene are 
maintained in homes, that health hazards are avoided, that public health 
facilities are maintained and that streets are kept clean and free of waste . 74 

In Sulaiman's text, the ultimate purpose of the state is to ensure that the 
overall welfare of the Muslim umma is promoted and fulfils 'the objective of 
safeguarding the umma from social degradation, deprivation and injustice, 
and providing its individual members with the necessary means and op¬ 
portunities to live honourably '. 75 Again, the objective of Sulaiman is to reac¬ 
tivate the theoretical considerations, rather than the actual conditions of the 
Caliphate. Thus, his treatment of the principles of taxation in the Sokoto 
Caliphate is analogous to the late twentieth century debate among Islamic 
economists about the normative fiscal basis of the Islamic state. Sulaiman 
considers that taxes outside the original Islamic categories are illegal and 
unjust. In fact, Sulaiman even stretches his argument to conclude that: 

A citizen pays only one form of tax at a time; if he is in a legal position to pay two kinds 
of taxes, then one lapses automatically. For example, a person does not pay zakat and 
kharaj at the same time even if he lives on land subject to kharaj. 7 ^ 

Sulaiman's view places him among the group of Muslim scholars who regard 
any of the fiscal innovations of the Muslim jurists during the Umayyad and 
Abbasid period as belonging to the non-Islamic world. 

Sulaiman's readings of Muhammad Bello's theories about how to frame 
policies to achieve socio-economic development also resemble those of the late 
twentieth century Islamic economists. A statement such as "Islam requires 
people to strike a balance between this world and the other and to do justice to 
them both" approximates, for example, to Naqvi's unity axiom, while "to be 

73 Aliyu 1990,188. 

74 Sulaiman 1987, 48-49. 

75 Ibid., 50. 

76 Ibid., 55. 


Holger Weiss 

gainfully employed is an act of worship in its own right, and all occupations 
are accorded equal respect" is tantamount to Naqvi's equilibrium axiom . 77 
Sulaiman's attitude towards poverty and begging is similar to Gusau's insofar 
as Sulaiman states that "poverty is not a virtue, but rather an affliction with 
calamitous consequences" and "begging is even greater an affliction than 
poverty because the face of begging is one of utter humiliation ". 78 

Sulaiman, like Gusau, considers that the individual has the primary re¬ 
sponsibility to make him- or herself independent. The obligation of the state 
should be to help individuals to secure work from which they can adequately 
meet their basic needs. This minimal state intervention policy seems to derive 
from the writings of Muhammad Bello but, as has been pointed out earlier, the 
policy is part of contemporary Islamic economics . 79 

Gusau goes even further than Sulaiman in his identification of the Sokoto 
Caliphate as an Islamic economy. According to Gusau, there are nine central 
features that constitute an Islamic economy and all of them were to be found in 
the Sokoto Caliphate . 80 However, Gusau and Sulaiman view both the 
characteristics of an Islamic economy in general, as well as the 'reality' of the 
Sokoto Caliphate in particular, as theoretical constructs. The writings of Usman 
dan Fodio, Abdullahi dan Fodio and Muhammad Bello consist of political and 
fiscal treatises about how government should be run and not accounts on how 
government and the economy actually developed within an Islamic state. 
Thus, although one can argue that the Sokoto Caliphate was an Islamic state, it 
is much more problematic to claim that an Islamic economy existed within this 


Some Nigerian Muslim academics have called for the implementation of 
Islamic economics to Nigeria as the solution to Nigeria's present problems. 
The advocates of Islamic economics, such as Sule Ahmad Gusau and Ibraheem 
Sulaiman, are, however, rather unclear about the purposes of reform. It seems 
as if they are not so much concerned with identifying the root causes of social 
and economic problems in Nigeria as in concentrating their arguments 
around moral and ethical questions. Thus, their writings concentrate on the 

77 Sulaiman 1987,113. 

78 Ibid., 113. 

79 Ibid., 113. 

80 Gusau 1990,173-87. The nine features presented by Gusau are: 1. The concept about the na¬ 
ture of the person's life being regarded as a test; 2. Allah as the absolute owner of all wealth, the 
person being a mere trustee; 3. The promotion of work and economic activity as a form of wor¬ 
ship; 4. The Islamic state is based firmly on the concepts of brotherhood and solidarity of Mus¬ 
lims; 5. The principle that the government is the protector of the weak; 6. The collection of 
zakat from the rich and its disbursement to the poor; 7. The definite economic responsibility of 
people towards themselves and those under them; 8. The attachment to justice and equity; 
9. The prohibition of extravagance. 


The Concept of Islamic Economy as Articulated in Sokoto 

question of the ideal Islamic state and the ideal Islamic economy without 
working out, so far, a macro or micro model of how the economy of the ideal 
state could work in practice. What is also striking is the rather conservative 
tone in their writings, especially in Gusau's articles. Whereas some Islamic 
economists, for instance Naqvi and Mannan, have stressed the need for a 
modern implementation of Islamic norms, including the need for land reform 
and universal education, the Nigerian scholars seem to regard such reforms as 
undesirable. Thus, Gusau still puts emphasis on the seclusion of women. One 
wonders whether the call for an Islamisation of the state and the economy of 
Nigeria according to the 'Sokoto project' is to be doomed as an archaic solution. 
However, if the writings of the Nigerian Islamic economists are merely 
interpreted as critical remarks on morals and ethics, then the theoretical 
discussion about social justice and the obligations of the state are more 


Islamic economics and especially the question of an institutionalisation of z akat 
has remained a hotly debated topic in Nigeria since the mid-1990s and 
especially during and after the implementation of sharl c a in most of the 
northern states at the beginning of the 21st century. 81 Unsurprisingly, Chris¬ 
tian and in general Southern voices have criticised the introduction of sharl c a 
in the North, whereas most Muslim authorities have backed the northern 
governments in their plans. Apart from implementing Islamic law in the 
states, the key argument of the propagators has been to strengthen the Islamic 
way of life in the North as well as to enable the "building of an Islamic 
ummah" in Nigeria. For many Muslim intellectuals, therefore, the 
implementation of the sharl c a is only the fist step towards this end. Along with 
the shari c a, the implementation of z akat as well as Islamic banking and finance 
is being discussed. 

Much of the debate on the implementation of Islamic economics in 
northern Nigeria that has occurred during the last few years has a more or less 
direct link to the earlier, much more theoretical debate of the "Sokoto school". 
Among those scholars, who have taken an active role in today's debate is 
Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who is Assistant General Manager at the United Bank 
for Africa in Lagos. 82 Sanusi has delivered two interesting lectures on Islamic 
economics, one during 2000 at a seminar in Kaduna, entitled "Institutional 
Framework of Zakat: Dimension and Implications", 83 and another at a 

81 See further my discussion in Chapter I. Twelve of the 19 northern states in Nigeria had by 
July 2001 introduced shari c a law, among others Zamfara, Kebbi, Kano, Jigawa, Borno, Sokoto, 
Niger, Bauchi, Gombe and Kaduna states. 

82 Sanusi's homepage is located at http:/ / 

83 Sanusi 2000. Source: http:/ / (printed 8.8.2001). 


Holger Weiss 

seminar in Abuja in July 2001, entitled "Basic Needs and Redistributive 
Justice in Islam—The Panacea to Poverty in Nigeria". 84 

In his first paper, Sanusi develops further some of the ideas of Gusau and 
other Islamic economists with regard to the implementation of zakat. Following 
the common argument of the Islamic economists, Sanusi argues that the 
collection of zakat is a responsibility of the state, but as there exists no Islamic 
state in Northern Nigeria, the question is who should take the responsibility 
for zakat collection? According to Sanusi, there are two possibilities, one is that it 
is the responsible of the emirs to appoint the imams of the Friday mosques, 
and they are in turn responsible for the proper collection and administration 
of zakat. However, in those states where the government has adopted shari c a, 
the collection and administration of zakat becomes the responsibility of these 
(worldly) governments. Sanusi's argument is interesting as he clearly side¬ 
steps the traditional role and position of the emirs in Northern Nigeria, 
turning some of today's northern Nigerian governments into de facto 'Islamic 
governments'. Sanusi draws a parallel between the present-day northern 
Nigerian governments and the Umayyad caliphate when claiming that zakat 
should be supervised by the government. His reflection is interesting as the 
Umayyad period usually is regarded as one when worldly affairs took over 
the religious aspects of the Caliphate. 

Even more interesting are his suggestions for providing new solutions to 
the handling of zakat. Sanusi acknowledges the fact that Maliki law is the 
official code in northern Nigeria—and has been so since the pre-colonial era. 
However, according to Sanusi, some of the Maliki interpretations on zakat are 
no longer appropriate in modern Nigeria. First, whereas the Maliki (as well as 
the ShaflT) code limits the range of agricultural products on which zakat —as 
ushr —is obligatory (excluding perishables, vegetables, fruits and cash crops), 
the HanafI position claims that whatsoever crop that is grown for profit is 
zakatable. Sanusi points to the fact that non-zakatable crops according to the 
Maliki code would become zakatable only if their sale forms part of zakatable 
earnings or the inventory at the end of the year, but then zakat would be 2.5 
per cent of their value as opposed to 10 or 5 per cent for produce. Second, 
Sanusi is in favour of zakat payment in cash—as the HanafI code allows— 
instead of produce, livestock or trading goods. Interestingly, one could claim 
that Sanusi standpoint comes very close to British arguments at the beginning 
of the twentieth century, when British colonial officials argued for a tax reform 
in Northern Nigeria, which among others, included cash payment for the 
grain tithe ( zakka ). Third, Sanusi argues strongly for extending zakat on 
corporate assets. 85 

Sanusi deals in his second paper with the question of 'redistributive 
justice'. One of his major arguments is that zakat is an institutionalised vehicle 
for redistribution of income, thus situating himself among the mainstream of 

84 Sanusi 2001. Source: http:/ / (printed 8.8.2001). 

85 Sanusi 2000. On the British policy concerning zakat, see Weiss 1997. 


The Concept of Islamic Economy as Articulated in Sokoto 

the Islamic economists. However, Sanusi's argumentation has a rather strong 
bias towards political economy, as he claims that 

... the distribution of economic resources ... is the primary basis for dividing human 
society into socio-economic classes. When we consider in addition that ownership of 
economic resources both facilitates and is facilitated by control of state machinery and 
civil society, we find ourselves faced with the impossibility of discussing 'distributive 
justice' without reference to the class structure of our society.®*’ 

Thus, instead of following the rather conservative position of Gusau and 
others, who generally do not spend much time in discussing the impact of 
political economy on their theoretical constructions, Sanusi is rather critical 
about simplistic economic and political solutions, especially when combined 
with Islamism: 

Money has no religion; nor do hunger, unemployment and poverty ... any attempt to 
speak of 'redistributive justice' in Islam must recongize its essentially populist character 
... any process of Islamization that is not essentially aimed at the economic 
empowerment of the popular masses falls short of the Islamic ideal in this area. 87 

Whereas in 2000 Sanusi still was rather positive about the possibilities of the 
process of Islamisation in the North, among other things the change of gov¬ 
ernments from secular into 'Islamic' ones, one year later his critique of the 
Northern political leadership was direct and without any doubts. Whereas in 
the ideal setting the government and the state apparatus would be responsi¬ 
ble for redistributing public wealth to ensure the elimination of poverty, 

... in our society ... this principle has been completely subverted with public officers 
growing rich on the public treasury. For many of them, wealth is not a reflection of any 
kind of physical or intellectual endowment, it only reflects the will to steal. 88 

However, for Sanusi the solution is not a return to or a revival of the glorious 
past—such as the Sokoto Caliphate or the uncompromising application of 
shari c a —but to acknowledge the political and economic structure of modern 
Nigeria, where "the poor farmer in Maiduguri has more in common with the 
poor farmer in Ogoniland than with his northern elite". 89 

Sanusi's critical reflections and outlines about zakat and Islamic economics 
in northern Nigeria highlight a different position than that of Gusau and 
earlier propagandists of Islamic economics in Nigeria. Whereas Gusau—and 
according to Sanusi most of the Nigerian Islamists—are conservative in their 
political and social argumentation, Sanusi represents another standpoint, 
namely that of a combination of Islamic economics and political economy. Still, 
as much of the debate so far has concentrated on about how to change society, 
the actual implementation of Islamic economics in northern Nigeria is yet to 

86 Sanusi 2001. 

87 Ibid. 

88 Ibid. 

89 Ibid. 


Holger Weiss 

be realised. Yet, one could claim that views like that of Sanusi might provide a 
more realistic solution in the Nigerian setting than the one outlined by Gusau. 
In fact, Sanusi argues in favour of the unity of Nigeria and the survival of 
democracy as well as stresses the importance of education of the masses and, 
most important, the fundamental responsibility of the government to provide 
for the individual's basic needs—irrespective of his or her religious affiliation: 

The people responsible for the Muslim northerner are no other than the northern Mus¬ 
lim elite. We must never let this elite forget that and we must remind our people that 
their true enemy is not the Nigerian constitution which guarantees their freedom and 
equality ... 90 


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The Concept of Islamic Economy as Articulated in Sokoto 


Outline of the undergraduate courses in Islamic Economics at the 

Department of Economics, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto 

(compiled from Gusau and Abdullahi 1995) 

Undergraduate I-level 

Introduction to Islamic Economic System (4 units) 

- the tenets of Islamic system and the questions of what to produce, how to 
produce and for whom to produce 

- the role of the public sector in an Islamic system 

- introducing the discussion on zakdt, hisba, riba and Islamic banking 

- questions of distribution, stability, welfare and development are touched 

Undergraduate II-level 

History of Economic Thought (2 units) 

- one third of the course deals with Islamic economic thought, including 
contemporary developments of Islamic economic thought 

- presents the roots of Islamic economic thought (Qur’anic, Sunna) as well as 
individual contributions of Muslim scholars such as al-Ghazali, Abu Yusuf, 
Ibn Taimiya, Ibn Khaldun, Usman dan Fodio, Abdullahi dan Fodio and 
Muhammad Bello 

Economics of Production and Consumption in Islam (4 units) 

- deals with advanced analysis of production and consumption relations, the 
focus being on need-oriented production and consumption 

- discussion on production organisation, market structure and the role of the 

Undergraduate IH-level 

History of Economic Thought (2 units) 

- one third of the course deals with Islamic economic thought 

- the aim of the course is to consolidate the learning of UG-II course 

Islamic Economic Analysis (3 units) 

- structure and mechanisms of Islamic economic system as well as goals of 
the system 

- Islamic conceptions of wealth, ownership and trusteeship 

- zakdt and its operational implications for the economy 

- fiscal policy in Islam and government borrowing as well as modes of 
financing the public sector 

- the monetary system, banking without interest and central banking in an 
Islamic economy 


Holger Weiss 

- Islamic guidelines for international economic relations and applicability of 
Islamic economics in a secular system and during transition 

Economics of Zakat (2 units) 

- studies the socio-political, economic and spiritual dimensions of zakat 

- zakat versus sadaqa and gift 

- the role of zakat in fiscal policy as well as zakat administration and man¬ 

- additional sources of revenue to the government 

Undergraduate IV-level 

Advanced Islamic Economic Analysis (4 units) 

- general equilibrium models of an Islamic economy, income determination, 
consumption and full employment models 

- analysis of theories of money, price and interest in Islamic perspective 

- theories of production and consumption under Islamic economy 

- treatment of fiscal and monetary policies in Islam as well as economic 
policy and planning welfare in an Islamic state 

- the applicability of Islamic economics in a secular system 

Economics of Islamic Welfarism (2 units) 

- discusses the concepts and the bases of welfare in Islam (Fard c Ayn and 
Fard Kifayah) 

- the role of the state in social welfare provision as well as the role of indi¬ 
viduals and organisations 

- discussion on zakat 

Economic Development Under Islamic Framework (2 units) 

- Review of Islamic system with respect to its philosophy and objectives of 
the general scheme of Islamic life 

- Islamic concepts of development and the philosophical foundations of 
Islamic approach to development 

- goals of development policy and planning as well as balanced develop¬ 
ment and self-reliance 



Franz Kogelmann, Ph.D., Researcher, German Institute for Middle East Studies, 
Hamburg, Germany 

Roman Loimeier, Ph.D., Privatdozent, Department of Islamic Studies, Univer¬ 
sity of Bayreuth, Germany; presently research on the development of Islamic 
education in Zanzibar 

Sulemana Mumuni, M.Phil, Lecturer in Islamic Studies, Department for the 
Studies of Religions, University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana 

Riidiger Seesemann, Ph.D., Research Fellow in the Special Research Project 
"Local Agency in Africa in the Context of Global Influences", University of 
Bayreuth, Germany 

Endre Stiansen, Dr. philos.. Research Centre for Development and Environ¬ 
ment, University of Oslo, Norway 

Knut S. Vikor, Dr. philos.. Director, Centre for Middle East and Islamic Studies, 
University of Bergen, Norway 

Holger Weiss, Ph.D., Docent in African History, Lecturer in African Studies, 
Department of Asian and African Studies, University of Helsinki, Finland